Preparing for 240-270 days of rainfall: Flooding in Lagos


Toyin Oshaniwa, Founder and Executive Director, Nature Cares Resource Center

Deji Akinpelu, Co-Founder, Rethinking Cities

Adebayo Ade-Ojo, Manager, Environment, and Ecology, Lagos State Resilience Office (LASRO)


A less technical and more adaptive approach is needed (The wetlands of Lagos are a major tool)

Nature itself is really teaching us a lot of lessons and we need to look at them as more of a solution. In this period of Covid-19, it is clear that we need nature more; It can revolver on its own and has proved to be self-resilient. We need to think about the natural system as a buffer to collect floodwater as they come. The point of this is to think of how we are protecting and preparing this space to receive the excess rainfall we are expecting this year. As a solution, we need to think about the wetlands in Lagos. 

Lagos Urban Development Initiative is organizing a Wetland Campaign in Lagos. Click here to see more details.


Proactive Step from Government: Continuity, Funding & Transparency

There needs to be an effort for continuity through each government administration to manage the issue of flooding. The Lagos State 25 year drainage master plan clearly has not been executed because it is grossly underfunded. During this Covid-19, one of the major challenges is the lack of an effective waste management system in Lagos state. PSP has been non-operational for a while because Olusosun is the only functioning landfill at the moment. This means that communities are left to handle the process of discarding their waste and this usually ends up in the drainages. The Ministry of Environment should take a more proactive method with Lagos state sanitation corps to monitor the situation and ensure a proper budget allocation to manage the situation. 

Click here for the flood vulnerability map of Lagos by Lagos State Emergency Management Agency


Community Engagement

Quite a number of efforts from the previous government have failed because they were unable to engage the people. Waste management is a big issue in certain communities (e.g. Adeniji Adele and Divine Estate) especially in cases where LAWMA is unable to assist with waste disposal. Such communities have to rely on local initiatives such as informal waste pickers to manage waste. Unfortunately, the state government has outlawed the use of these informal waster pickers in Lagos. Without the disposal income to pay the monthly fees for waste disposal there is a significant effect on the low-income communities and at the end of the day, we have more waste being dumped in the canals.  So although It is important for the state government to monitor the disposal of waste by citizens, there needs to be more of an effort towards working constructively with these people to find a lasting solution.


Thinking about the impacts as we reclaim lost land

As the state government embarks on more reclamation projects, the environmental effects need to be considered because these activities pave the way for severe damaging effects in Lagos. For instance, Eko Atlantic city was designed to reclaim lost land over several years and it is designed with a flood defence system to protect just its portion of the coastline (only 14km). Ultimately, this has created issues in other areas of the coast and worsened the flooding and erosion during periods of rainfall. Is Lagos state committed to building more islands and reclaiming this land to build houses for the masses or is this just an agenda for luxury? Are these efforts for 1% of the 1% in a city of over 10 million people?


Reviving relevant agencies and institutions 

There needs to be an effort to ensure agencies and institutions responsible for enforcing the laws, policies, and regulations addressing the situation need to be revived. Within the metropolis, the office of drainage services has an arm responsible for responding to flash floods called the Emergency Flood Abatement Department. Other responsibilities of the department included; cleaning the canals, sensitizing communities on proper waste disposal, and construction of canals based on the drainage master plan for Lagos. In the last three-four years, they were moved to the public works operation and rendered redundant due to the lack of funds allocated. This has had an adverse effect on the response rate to the situation in Lagos. Currently, the present administration has made efforts to revive the department and partner for a monitoring system with the Lagos neighbourhood security call. 


LASRO Flooding Initiatives

Community Participatory Flood Hazard Management: This is a massive sensitization campaign in areas most vulnerable to the effects of floodwater. The Government in partnership with the communities identifies early warning systems that help respond to the situation in the absence of government intervention. They are trained to know exactly what to do when the flood comes.

Promoting sustainable waterfront tourism to improve livelihoods in coastal communities: Erosion has endangered the livelihood of coastal communities such as Alpha beach. This initiative involves putting up flood defence systems, flood hazard maps, and providing loans to start-up businesses in these communities to kick off tourism once again. 

Although the present administration has signed off on this, the pandemic has slowed down the process of implementation. 

Click here to access the Lagos resilience strategy document


Press briefings cannot be the only medium to create awareness

Awareness creation goes beyond press briefings, there needs to be a massive push on the social and economic impacts of flooding in communities through the media and physical engagements. The Lagos State Ministry of Environment needs to put out more information that educates citizens on the issue.


Indigenous knowledge for flood adaptation

How much has the indigenous knowledge in communities been captured in flooding strategic plans? We need to explore the ways communities like Makoko have been able to survive floods without collapsing. How can we improve and scale up this science as proactive measures? There are so many more examples from the slum communities in Lagos but the first step to this process is recognition from the state government. 


Living with the flood as a strategy

So much damage has been done that there may never be a point that flooding is prevented Lagos state. Strategies and policies are available to manage the situation however, is a better alternative not to design ways we can live with the water? In terms of future thinking/planning, this may include designing buildings double or triple above sea levels. The key challenge is the availability of an inclusive plan for the city. The state government is often focused on the benefits for high-income communities and lacks the political will to implement these strategies.
Download the 2017 study; Living with flood by (Madhuri, Tewari & Bhowmick)

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