Cars and houses submerged in water, passengers passing by bus kneeling in the flood and owners counting the value of destroyed property.
Welcome to Lagos in the rainy season.
Residents of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, are accustomed to the annual floods that hit the coastal city from March to November. In mid-July, however, Lagos Island’s main commercial district experienced its worst flooding in years.
“It was very bad and unusual,” told 32-year-old Esselebor Osseluonamen CNN.
“I left the house… I didn’t know it had rained so much… There was a lot of traffic on my way because of the flood. The further we went, the higher the water level got. The water kept rising. When Till it didn’t cover my bumper. Car… so water was flowing inside my car,” recalled Oseluonamen, who runs a media company in Lagos on the mainland.
Photos and videos posted on social networks showed dozens of vehicles flooded after torrential rain. The floods paralyze economic activity, with an estimated cost of about US$4 billion a year.
Lagos, a low-lying city on Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, home to more than 24 million people, could be uninhabited by the end of this century as sea levels rise due to climate change, scientific estimates suggest.
According to a study conducted by the Institute for Development Studies, the problem is compounded by “inadequate and poorly maintained drainage systems and uncontrolled urban development”.
Nigeria’s hydrological agency, the NIHSA, predicted more devastating floods in September, usually the peak of the rainy season.
Lagos was built partly on the mainland and on a chain of islands.
It is fighting coastal erosion that makes the city vulnerable to flooding, which Nigerian environmentalist Seifunmi Adebote says is due to global warming and “human-induced action in the long term”.
Environmental experts said construction sand mining is a major contributor to coastal erosion in Lagos.
A spokesman for the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Manzo Ezekiel, told CNN that the Lagos Riverbank’s Victoria Island has already been “taken away from the current … particularly in Lagos Region VI”. “There is a problem of river bank overflow. The rising water level is eating away at the land,” Ezequiel said.
On Victoria Island, an affluent neighborhood of Lagos – an entirely new coastal city dubbed ‘Eco Atlantic’ – is being built on land retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean and will be protected from rising water by an 8-kilometre-long concrete wall . Developers say.
While the ambitious project could contribute to alleviating the housing shortage in other parts of the city, Ezequiel fears that “land reclamation from the sea will put pressure on other coastal areas”.
Other critics have argued that surrounding areas not protected by the wall would be vulnerable to tidal waves. CNN contacted Acko Atlantic for comment.
Coastal cities at risk of drowning
A study has found that low-lying coastal cities in some parts of the world could be permanently underwater by 2100. The study, published by the Climate Central Research Group, said the affected areas could sink below the high tide line if sea levels continue to rise.
“As a result of pollution from human activities that trap heat, rising sea levels could, within three decades, trigger more chronic floods on land than there are currently 300 million people,” the study said. people live.” “By 2100, the areas where 200 million people now live could be permanently below the high tide line,” he said.
Global sea levels are projected to rise by more than 2 meters by the end of this century.
This leaves Lagos, which experts say is less than two meters above sea level, in a precarious position as part of Nigeria’s coastline. In a 2012 study, the University of Plymouth UK found that only a 3 to 9 ft (about 1 to 3 m) rise in sea level in Nigeria’s coastal environment “would have a devastating effect on human activities”.
Adebot told CNN that the fate of Lagos “will depend on how we prioritize this scientific prediction and the actions we take in response to it.” “It’s just a matter of time for nature to merge and it could be a disaster,” he said.
Deadly floods in Nigeria
Perennial floods have killed many people and left many homeless in Nigeria’s coastal areas. According to NEMA data, more than two million people were directly affected by floods in 2020.
At least 69 people lost their lives in flood disasters last year. In 2019, more than 200,000 people were affected by floods, in which 158 people died.
“Every year we see floods in Nigeria. This is a problem that climate change has brought and we are living with it,” Ezekiel told CNN.
In addition to Lagos’ vulnerability to climate change, large areas of the city have increased flooding challenges due to poor drainage systems and closed road gutters.
Reacting to a video about recent floods in lakes, a social media user tweeted, “Climate change plays a role in sea level rise, you can see a drainage system mainly issue in this video Huh.”
However, as flooding increases in some areas, low-income neighborhoods built in reclaimed wetlands have to contend with sinking buildings.
Lagos on the map
Adebote told CNN that for Lagos to survive amid floods and rising sea levels, it must adapt to climate change.
“We need to look at our infrastructure – drainage systems, waste management facilities, housing structures… how resilient and adaptable are these infrastructures in the face of environmental pressures and when stacked side by side with our growing population?” he said.
Since then, authorities in Lagos have begun cleaning the state’s water channels to reduce perennial flooding.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari also expressed the country’s desire to partner with global allies in combating climate change.
“We look forward to working with the President [Joe] Biden and or Vice President [Kamala] Harris. “We have great hope and optimism as we continue to strengthen existing cordial relations, working together to combat global terrorism, climate change, poverty and improve economic ties and trade,” Buhari wrote in a January tweet.
But Adebot noted that the government’s response to climate action “has been very weak.”
He added, “Much more needs to be done and it will take consistent and deliberate action by various stakeholders to make climate action appropriate for Nigeria, especially in adapting to impacts that are already threatening our livelihoods.” ,” They said.
Olumide Idovu, an environmental activist, called on government officials to partner with the private sector to raise funds to solve the problems.
“The government should seek partnerships with the private sector so that they can administer climate finance to address flood problems,” Idovu told CNN.
Nigeria’s economy has struggled in recent years, with climate change and reduced funding for other important sectors. However, officials are still committed to accelerating the country’s response to climate change.
Last month, Nigeria’s environment ministry announced the presidential approval of a renewed national policy on climate change, aimed at addressing “most, if not all, of the challenges posed by climate change and climate vulnerability in the country”. is to be addressed. Twitter post.
(Translated text. read here in original English.)