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Lagos climate summit: Proffering solution to global warming

On July 10, 2011, the heavens suddenly opened up and, for 16 hours non-stop, Lagos experienced a torrential rainfall that led to loss of lives and destruction of property.

Hadiza Mailafia, Federal Environment Minister

Then on February 13, 2012, an unprecedented storm with wind speed hovering between 75km and 100km befell bustling city, damaging numerous homes, 49 public schools, one administrative building and killed nine pupils when the boat conveying them to school capsized and they all drowned. Curiously, the rainstorm occurred in the middle of February, a month not usually associated with such an extreme weather condition.

“Gone are the days when we could succinctly draw a line between the rainy season and dry season; gone are the days when harvest was predictable and bountiful; gone are the days when select species of certain fish were readily available on the menu table,” said Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) in 2009 at the maiden Lagos Climate Change Summit.

Last year was a national disaster. Numerous communities were overrun by flood as major rivers, swollen from weeks of heavy rainfall and release of water upstream, overflowed their banks. Thousands were displaced and subsequently accommodated at relief camps established at several locations nationwide.

Tunji Bello, Lagos State Environment Commissioner

However, Lagos State did not record any disaster compared to other states, a development attributed to the year–round, state-wide anti-flooding programme put in place by the state government. This year, government has commenced massive dredging, expansion and cleaning of drainage channels across the state in readiness for this year’s rainy season.

Director-General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Dr Anthony Anuforom, subsequently commended Lagos as the only state in the country that had a deliberate and concerted anti-flooding programme in place, which might have been responsible for its less flooding incidences.  In fact, he urged other states in the federation to emulate Lagos State.

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The agency has warned that the rains will be intensive this year and that communities located along the Niger River basin should brace up for more flood.

NIMET officials gave the prediction recently while presenting the agency’s report of this year’s rainfall expectations. They put the commencement of the rains from February running through June, with a lull between early October and late December across the country.

Babtunde Raji Fashola, Governor of Lagos State

However, this and other related issues will soon be put into perspective at an international forum, courtesy of the Lagos State Government. In what appears to have become a tradition, state authorities are once again confronting the climate change challenge, albeit via a yearly forum that has received global acclaim.

The 5th Lagos Climate Change Summit holds March 13th to 15th, 2013 at the Eko Hotel & Suites on Victoria Island, with the theme: “Vulnerability and Adaptability to Climate Change in Nigeria: Lagos State Transportation, Housing and Infrastructure in Focus.”

Previous events held 24th to 26th March, 2009; 4th to 7th May, 2010; 8th to 10th February, 2011; and 12th to 14th April, 2012.

While the 2009 maiden event had “Reclaiming the Environment: Challenges and Consequences of Climate Change” as its theme, the follow-up in 2010 discussed: “Trans-boundary Effects of Climate Change.” Further, the 2011 summit focused on: “Charting a Road Map for Combating Climate Change in Nigeria”, even as last year’s gathering explored issues related to: “Vulnerability and Adaptability to Climate Change in Nigeria: Lagos State Agriculture, Industry and Health Sectors in Focus.”

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All past Climate Change Summits – as well as the upcoming one – have held under the tenure of Governor Fashola, who seems committed to tackling the global environmental scourge in general and the unsavoury impact of the climate change phenomenon in Lagos in particular.

Just like that of 2012, this year’s event will also examine the burning issues of vulnerability and adaptability, which are crucial topics in the global warming discussion. This time around however, the emphasis lay on transportation, housing and infrastructure development, aspects considered high priority in the light of Lagos’ attainment of a megacity status.

Past events have produced a wide range of recommendations which, upon their implementation, appear to have helped to advance the state’s adaptation and mitigation capabilities to the impact of climate change.

For instance, government a couple of years ago declared July 14 of every year as Tree Planting Day in the state. It came under a programme aimed at planting millions of trees to beautify Lagos and also provide a carbon sink. Five million trees have so far reportedly been planted.

Similarly, the government has established the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) to beautify and regenerate the Lagos environment from the effect of climate change, in the light of the intensity of global warming that is threatening the entire ecosystem. The agency’s effort at establishing gardens and parks all over Lagos has placed her among the notable green cities in the world today. All the Local Government Councils and Local Development Areas have been mandated to create parks and gardens.

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Also, in order to address the problem of flooding arising from the increasingly high rainfall pattern, the state has committed to grow the scope and capacity of existing drainage channels in the city and the construction of new ones. Such channels are also being lined with concrete.

Described as a climate change adaptation strategy, the Eko Atlantic City project has likewise been embarked upon by government to protect the Bar Beach shoreline from the persisting ocean surge and coastal erosion. Eko Atlantic City’s “Great Wall” has brought back the coastline of Victoria Island to where it was a century ago before coastal erosion began to wash it away, says Environment Commissioner, Tunji Bello.

He adds: “As a pro-active government, Lagos State Government has devotedly implemented its resolution at these summits in the areas of intensive advocacy, annual massive tree planting exercises, and construction of effective drainage channels to contain flood, improved waste management, recycling programmes, and exploration of renewable energy sources, amongst others.”

Lagos is considered Africa’s fastest growing city, with the projection that, by 2015, it will be the world’s 5th largest megacity after Tokyo. In the light of the theme for the 2013 summit, deliberations are expected to extensively centre on the adoption of: a mass transit module for Lagos, ostensibly to reduce the use of personal cars and curb carbon emission (transportation); green, and environment-friendly dwelling units (housing); and high capacity and multi-purpose roads (infrastructure).

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