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Combating Flooding in Lagos, Nigeria

Updated: Jul 6

In the bustling coastal state of Lagos, Nigeria, the familiar annual flooding challenge compounds the already existing hardships faced Lagosians. As the rainy season begins, the looming threat of flooding exacerbates the suffering in an economy marred by high inflation rates. In February 2024, The Vanguard Newspaper reported that 151 houses and 7 communities were submerged in the Lagos flood. On July 3rd, 2024, another flooding incident made the headlines. This time it was 9 hours of rainfall, which is not news but you wonder when this situation will end or at the very least, improve.

A painted expression of flooding with people, cars submerged in flood
A painted depiction of flooding in Lagos

Severe flooding of major roads, including key entrances to the Third Mainland Bridge, as a result of heavy rainfall starting at 3 am on Wednesday, left thousands of commuters and motorists in Lagos state stranded.

Extensive flooding in multiple state areas due to heavy rainfall resulted in stranded commuters and the disruption of transportation networks and residential areas. Affected locations include Iyana-Oworo-Alapomeji, Ketu-Alapere, Oshodi-Mafoluku, Aboru, Iyana ipaja, Iyana Iba, Isheri/Idimu-LASU, Ijegun-Abaranje, Ikate, Egbeda-Akowonjo, Jakande Estate, Ogba, Okota, and the Lekki-Ajah corridor.

On Wednesday, the Lagos State Government urged the public to remain calm in response to the sudden flooding triggered by heavy rainfall across the state. The statement was issued by Mr. Tokunbo Wahab, the Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, in Lagos.

“This is coupled with the heavy rainfall which the state has been experiencing daily since the previous week resulting in the rise in level of the Lagos lagoon,” Wahab said.

He mentioned that the flash floods that affected areas like Iyana-Oworo connecting the Third Mainland Bridge and other places would diminish as soon as the rain stops and the lagoon level decreases. The commissioner also stated that the state had sent Emergency Flood Abatement Gang personnel to key flood-prone areas, including Iyana-Oworo, which had been cleared of any obstructions.

He advised individuals residing in low-lying areas to move to higher ground promptly to protect lives and properties. He also warned residents against driving through flooded areas, as even a foot of swiftly moving water during high tide can easily carry away a vehicle, regardless of the number of passengers. Wahab further recommended that all residents stay informed by regularly checking the daily weather updates provided by the State Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources to plan their daily activities accordingly. He emphasized that Lagos, being a coastal city with nearly a third of its land area submerged, requires every resident to be more attentive to environmental conditions.

Understanding the Plight

Lagos, a city teeming with life and enterprise - acclaimed as West Africa's biggest social and economic hub - is no stranger to the wrath of floods. The onset of heavy rainfall each year inundates the streets, homes, and businesses, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Beyond the physical damage, the economic repercussions of these floods are profound. Businesses struggle to stay afloat, citizens lose their livelihoods, and the already strained economy takes another hit.

Do we again reaffirm the resilience of the Nigerian spirit (dangerously and blindly limitless) like people turning it into a business venture? or the goals should be to focus on more sustainable solutions. Converting a disaster to a source of business income is genius in a sense but that would be on an individual gain level. How about the collective win for everyone to enjoy a coastal city that thrives when it rains for hours? Surely, Lagos is not the only coastal city that had hours of rainfall in the last few days? What can the state learn from other thriving coastal cities like Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Bristol?

Earlier in June, The Lagos State Government reiterated its commitment to a flood-free state but the situation has not changed much.

The Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab made the statement in  an interview after an extensive inspection tour to various contravention sites, adding that government would continue to enforce the law while reclaiming drainage setbacks. 
Wahab said the inspection team, led by him, was out for the normal routine to ascertain the state of some drainage channels with the hindsight that most flooding issues are majorly caused by negative human activity. 

A Call for Sustainable Action

The time has come for a concerted effort towards sustainable solutions that can mitigate the impact of flooding in Lagos. Adopting a proactive stance towards flood management is paramount to safeguarding the well-being of the city and its residents. By embracing sustainable practices, such as improved drainage systems, green infrastructure, and flood-resilient urban planning, Lagos can reduce the vulnerability of its people to the annual deluge of floods.

Investing in sustainable infrastructure not only provides immediate relief but also ensures long-term resilience against future calamities. By prioritizing cost-effective eco-friendly context-relevant practices, Lagos can fortify its defenses against flooding while simultaneously contributing to environmental conservation efforts. It is important that both government bodies and private stakeholders come together to formulate and execute comprehensive flood management strategies that prioritize sustainability and community well-being.

Empowering the Community

Amidst the chaos and adversity brought about by annual flooding, the spirit of unity and resilience among Lagos residents shines through. Empowering the community to actively participate in flood preparedness and response efforts is crucial in building a more resilient city. Education, training, and awareness campaigns can equip citizens with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the challenges posed by flooding effectively.

Blocked drainages are usually the first complaint but what changes after this incident because the flooding in Lagos no longer surprises anyone. If blocked drainages keep coming up as a cause, what sustainable approach can the government implement going forward? The first step would be to change the approach to public sensitization. More creative ways to include the public in any prevention planning should become a priority. This approach should be far from the usual punitive and complicated approaches in the past that create suspicions on the part of the public. The other question is making this a national emergency, rather than a single state issue so that other coastal states can collaborate on this yearly flooding.

Community-based initiatives, such as effective waste disposal systems, contextually tested plastic use pilot programs, early warning systems, emergency drills, and sustainable livelihood programs, can further enhance the city's capacity to weather the storm. By fostering a culture of collaboration and preparedness, Lagos can transform the annual flood season from a time of fear and uncertainty to an opportunity for collective action and growth.

As Lagos grapples with the recurring menace of flooding against a challenging economic landscape backdrop, the need for sustainable solutions as a coastal state has never been more pressing. Lagos can pave the way for a brighter, more resilient future by prioritizing sustainability, nature-based innovations, and community engagement. The state already has a climate action plan, it can go back to that document as a starting point in the shift toward effective flood management.

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