Global challenges constitute an alarming indicator that calls for reflection on how best to utilise, preserve and conserve natural resources, towards ensuring a sustainable lifestyle, sustainable growth, sustainable economy and sustainable development.
In the new millennium, attention is being paid to environmental protection so that future generations can also benefit from the bounty of nature. The new slogan of the 2000s is “sustainable development or sustainability” which is impacting on most, if not on all, economic and social aspects of growth, and which is of paramount significant to Lagos State as an emerging mega city. The tires of government need to address locally their social, ecological and economic challenges in meeting the agenda for sustainable development.
The concept of Sustainable Communities is one of the sustainability modes of creating awareness, educating, as well as promoting peace, values and mainstreaming the three pillars of sustainability in the development process. Thus, sustainable communities are communities planned, built, or modified to promote a sustainable living. They tend to focus on environmental sustainability (including development and agriculture) and economic sustainability.
Located along the Lagos coastline, Eleko is one of the numerous communities in Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos. It is renowned for its swampy terrain and regarded as the “gate way” to economy prosperity in the state. Both the Lekki Free Trade Zone and the Eco-tourism Village cut across the Eleko community, which has a population of about 5,000 inhabitants. Major occupation of the people is fishing and some trading activities by the famous Eleko Beach.
Environmentalist, Toyin Oshaniwa, who is conducting a study in the area of sustainable communities, ponders: “How sustainable is Eleko in 2015/2020? How sustainable are its fishing activities? What are the ecological, social and economic challenges? What is the state of its governance and community development/participation?”
Oshinawa, who is Executive Director, Nature Cares (a non-governmental organization), says that Eleko is rich in natural resources and biodiversity such as swampy shrubs, water tolerant plants, coconut trees, shrimps, periwinkles prawns and fish.
According to him, the community is showing signs of climate change directly and indirectly impacting inhabitants such as low fishing activities, rising sea level, high tides, changes in weather and fishing patterns, and loss of natural shoreline protection (coconut trees). He lists other challenges to include: poor waste management, deforestation, water and sanitation, land clearance/utilisation and salt water intrusion and attending health consequences.
“To address the environmental or ecological problems, sustainability strategies can be employed to create more environmental values and reduce the negative impact of the people activities or lifestyle on the environment,” he states, adding that the strongest element of sustainable community is the promotion of social equity, and appreciation of cultural values and peace.
“The people of Eleko are peaceful, supportive and accommodative. Meeting and interacting with them shows the desire to develop in a sustainable way, by identifying social needs for the community, and development that will help the future generation. Some of the noted challenges are: poor sanitary system (toilets), lack of basic educational infrastructure and system (primary and secondary schools), electricity, and vulnerable livelihood, especially the women. A practical sustainable community participatory project will promote a sustainable community development,” he observes.
He describes the community as a gate way of economic development for the state, having a strong potential for growth. But he fears that poor government policies and lack of good governance that does not involve the people in the development process may be a clog in the wheel of progress.
“The Lekki Free Trade Zone is an indication that there will be land use conflict and destruction of natural resources with no proper sustainability plans. Already, there are: poor roads within the community, Illegal sale of land, lack of a sustainable plan for the community, women and youth unemployment, and neglect of the fishing sector due to poor equipment and policy.”
He wants both the local and state governments to ensure a sustainability plan is put in place to protect the people’s source of livelihood, protect/preserve their land for future generation, invest in the fishing industry, empower youth/women, and create green jobs.