Features Write-Ups

AS WE AWAIT THE RAINS Tayo Ogunbiyi

Universally, rain is considered a major blessing of nature. In rural Africa, where farming is a major pre-occupation, the coming of rain brings joy to the farmers.  However, like other natural blessings, rain could become a problem when it is in excess and with horrendous effects.

The previous year was particularly bad news for the world in terms of the volume of rains experienced and its attendant consequences. For instance, millions of people were displaced by deadly floods resulting from torrential rains in China, Australia, Japan, United States of America, Indonesia and Brazil. In Australia, in particular, torrential rainfall brought the whole nation to its knees with major flooding, damaging winds and dangerous surf and severe thunderstorms.

All of these experiences are largely traceable to global warming-induced climate change which is posing major threats to lives, food security and businesses globally. In Nigeria, in view of its topography, Lagos also had its fair share of distressing rains. Last year, the heavens opened up in an unusual fashion, leaving in its trail pains and heartaches. In view of its peculiar topography, like other such coastal cities, the rainy season is usually challenging for Lagos residents.

A critical feature of Lagos landscape is that it is essentially made up of low lying terrain up to 0.4 percent below the sea level. This is logically the source of huge drainage challenges for the State. If this is added to the volume of rain that was experienced last year, it would be realized that there is possibly no way there would not be flash flooding in Lagos. Understanding this scenario is quite crucial to our overall perception of Lagos’ flooding concern.

Understanding the threat of global warming- deforestation, greenhouse gasses emission- and its damaging effects on the world is equally essential. It is as a result of this that the Lagos State government has been in the fore-front of combating the challenge in the country. It has held several international global warming conferences, in addition to making several advocacy campaigns on the subject in recent time.

Being a natural occurrence, flooding often time defies scientific solutions. While upgrading environmental infrastructure is important, engineering fixes alone will not suffice. According to renowned Ecologists, Donald Hey and Nancy Philippi, despite the massive construction of levees throughout the upper Mississippi Basin during the 20th century, annual average flood damage during that time more than doubled. Consequently, what is needed across the globe is a comprehensive plan to add ecological infrastructure to complement engineering infrastructure -specifically to expand wetlands and re-activate floodplains so as to mitigate future flood risks.

In Nigeria, we don’t appreciate preparedness and prevention of disaster but wait for problem before taking action despite our weak infrastructural development. Tackling natural occurrences such as climate change and flooding is a collective responsibility that must involve every segment of the society. Therefore, as we await the rains this year, we must all be ready to embrace positive attitude to the environment.

In Lagos, for instance, certain negative practices easily aid flooding. This include turning canals, streams and drainages into refuse dumping sites. It is so bad that while it is raining, people come out to toss their refuse into the flowing water body. This is wrong and must be discontinued.

Lagos residents, especially, need to be more affirmative concerning proper waste disposal, compliance with building regulations, embracing alternative energy use, paying necessary attention to sanitation issues and not building structures on drainage channels, flood plains and on water pathways. Also, those living in flood prone areas as identified by the government must seek alternative accommodation before the rains. Indeed, all human induced activities that aid flooding must be stopped.

With the prediction by experts that the world would witness more rains this year, we all must be ready to play our part to avert devastating consequences. The federal government, through its relevant agencies, should collaborate with States that have peculiar flooding challenges to determine areas of assistance. This must be done as a regular preventive measure, and not after the havoc has been done.

As always, the Lagos State government is committed to a cleaner environment and quality public health. It is demonstrating this through the implementation of community based solid waste management, flood control, vegetal control and high standard of home and personal hygiene, sanitation, control of environment pollution (air, water and noise), beautification and advertisement control. Consequently, the State government’s approach to tackling the issue of flooding is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. It includes dredging, massive construction and expansion of drainage channels, desilting and excavation of silts to dumpsites, regular repair, clearing and cleaning of drainages, canals and collector drains across the state.

Being a natural occurrence, no known scientific device is capable of stopping rain. It is, however, possible to mitigate its adverse effects, if we all resolve to do the right things. The struggle between man and nature has for long been a protracted one. The airplanes, the Panama Canal, the European tunnel, the Pyramid of Egypt among others remain clear testimonies of the indefatigable depth of human capacity for survival against the threat of nature.

Therefore, to mitigate the effects of the rains this year, we must all work together as one and do the needful. Together we can make our society a safer and better place to live.

Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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