Friday, 3 June 2016

Taming ocean surge in Lagos

Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper

Against the background of the high incidence of ocean surge on its coastline, the Lagos State Government has appropriately earmarked N36 billion to tackle the menace. No doubt, with the entire Lagos territory almost at sea level, exposure to marine encroachment is very high, especially, now that the rainy season is here and the government could not have been more pro-active.

As the rains peak, ocean surge would be ravaging and large swaths of the coastal land could be submerged. The challenge now is for the state authorities to ensure that the huge amount is spent judiciously to protect the coastline, lives and property.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Adebowale Akinsanya, explained, the other day, that the fund was for the construction of 18 groynes (sea breakers), at intervals of 40 metres between Goshen Estate and Alpha Beach. He said each groynes would cost N2 billion to construct.

Akinsanya recalled that the project was awarded in 2012 and divided into three phases. He said, phase one of the project, which was the construction of three groynes, commenced in January 2013 and had been completed.

Work on the second phase, involving the construction of 12 groynes commenced in January 2014, and has reached 80 per cent completion. Similarly, work on phase three involving the construction of three new groynes has already commenced.

At the same time, the state government has approved the development of three islands, namely: Diamond, Orange and Gracefield Phoenix islands. These islands will involve the reclamation of large expanse of water in designated areas of the Lagos waterfront.

It is not clear if the government did proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) to determine the degree of impact the artificial islands would have on coastal and marine ecosystem.

There is no doubt that work on the Eko Atlantic City is in advanced stage. The impact this and the new islands would have should be ascertained beforehand to prevent possible coastal disaster, bearing in mind that the reclamation of large swaths of marshland upon which Lagos is built has impacted adversely on the city as a result of poor planning.

Nigeria’s entire 800-kilometre coastline is prone to ocean surge and experts warn that settlements on the nation’s coastal areas, especially Eti-Osa, in Lagos State, risk total submergence, except pragmatic steps are taken by stakeholders to avert the impending catastrophe.

Based on this, the problem of ocean surge is not restricted to Lagos State alone. All the states bordering the Atlantic Ocean should, therefore, be pro-active to avert a potential danger which has been exacerbated by the climate change phenomenon.

Although, no nation is immune to the impact of a swing in global climate, coastal communities could suffer more from rising water levels, which would escalate tidal waves that submerge coastal areas.

Certainly, Nigeria is not doing much to address the problem. Poor governance, severe economic hardship, corruption and many other issues tend to divert the attention of those in authority from the realities of climate change and looming environmental disaster. The massive flooding of about 27 states in the wake of the overflow of the Rivers Niger-Benue system in 2012 is a wake-up call on the government to snap out of inertia. Protective embankments are needed along flood-prone coastal areas and the time to build them is now.

The effort of the Lagos government is commendable, but should be intensified. Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of the country, with a teeming population put at over 18 million people. It would be more than disastrous if the ocean surges were not tamed in Lagos.

Worldwide, cities situated on coastal areas are usually protected with dykes and embankments. The entire Netherlands, for instance, is known for its system of dykes that shield the country from the ravages of the sea. The protective sea breakers being erected by the Lagos State Government is, therefore, timely and the same measures should be implemented in the Niger Delta region.

Ocean surge occurs when water is pushed towards the shore usually by the force of swirling winds around a cyclonic system. The advancing surge combines with the normal tides and creates high waves that can reach 30 feet or more. The force of the waves could have disastrous impact on adjoining coastal areas.

In August 2012, the Lagos State Government demolished buildings at the Kuramo Beach in Victoria Island after a strong ocean surge swept through the facility.

The phenomenon of ocean surge is not restricted to one spot. The entire coastal area of Lagos is prone to it. Therefore, what is needed is for the authorities to safeguard the entire coast, for, it was the Kuramo Beach once, it may occur elsewhere next time.

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