Professionals in the built environment sector converged on Lagos on Monday, September 30, 2019 to examine the extent to which the implementation of the New Urban Agenda would impact the environment in the state and subsequently across the country.
The New Urban Agenda is a global effort geared towards expanding the infrastructures of towns and cities in urban centres, in order to adequately meet the deficit in decent settlement for large population in cities, occasioned by the growing massive influx from the rural areas.
The experts gathered at the maiden edition of the Lagos Urban Dialogue, organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, in collaboration with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
Themed “Sustainable Development Goals: An Essential to Achieving Lagos 21st Century Economy”, the forum was part of the preparatory frameworks to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially on Liveable at the Settlement for all, in the state and country alike.
Urbanisation is one of the 17 key development indicators recommended under the SDGs Obligation by the United Nations, as part of the global coordinated efforts to address the worsening crisis of poverty, underdevelopment, and the rural-urban migration frenzy.
And of more interest to a state like Lagos is the current report identifying it as the 6th fastest sinking cities in the world, with rising water level hovering between 3-7 inches.
To meet these challenges, especially in a metropolitan location like Lagos State, which is reputed to be home to some 21 million people, over 10% of the country’s total populations, with unconfirmed 86 more people trooping into the metropolis every hour, the experts frantically searched for the professional “magic wand” to deliver on the obligations, without necessarily impairing the environment.
The passion is hinged against the empirical standpoint that, globally, cities currently occupy merely 5% of the universe total land mass but overwhelmed with accommodating about 50% of the entire population of the world.
Declaring the event open, Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako, said Lagos is actively involved in the synergy for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda project.
According to him, the Lagos State Government, notwithstanding the overwhelming challenges, is well on course to transform the metropolis to a 21st century economy.
His words: “The vision of Lagos State is an extrapolation of the New Urban Agenda, which is an action-oriented document that provides a global principles, policies and standards required to achieve urban development for the transformation of our national government.
“It is a norm and proven fact that Lagos, just like other sub-Sahara African cities, is faced with challenges such as water, economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship, safety, security and environmental resource management.
“It is however arguable that, beyond all odds, the city state is not resting on her oars in the bid to surmount these challenges.
“The priority areas listed in making Lagos a 21st Century Economy include Conducive Business Environment, Inclusive Governance, Youth Economic Empowerment, Foreign Direct Investment promotion, and as well as support for key economic sectors like Agriculture, Housing, Energy and Security,” he stressed.
In his lecture titled “Implementing and Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals and New Urbanisation Agenda,” Professor Leke Oduwaye, one of the two Nigerians that participated in the crafting and adoption of the NUA, said it was time to spill the beans on the realities behind the possible implementation of the new mandate.
He said: “The truth is, somethings have to give, to achieve the NUA. But, sadly, what is going to give way, in this stead, if we are ever serious at implementing the NUA, vis-à-vis the SDGs, is our environment.
“Because there is no way we can build more urban centres without impairing the environment. What we then need to do is work on how to minimise the tolls to the barest minimum,” he stressed.
Guest speaker, Mrs. Solape Hammond, Special Adviser to the State Governor on SDGs, reiterated the commitment of Governor Babajide Sanwoolu to delivering on the SDGs, saying her boss’ six-point development agenda for the state reflects this priority.
Under the six-point development agenda, a blueprint designed to guide his governance, Governor Sanwo-olu’s searchlights are beamed on: Traffic Management and Transportation; Health and Environment; Education and Technology; Making efforts to create affordable housing for the people; Entertainment and Entrepreneurship; and Security and Governance.
Represented by Mrs. Abosede George, Hammond hinted that part of the strategies put in place to hit the ground running for her Ministry is the staging of a public dialogue with community leaders, traditional rulers and other key stakeholders on possible collaborative efforts to get the job done.
Hammond admittedly said that to making Lagos State a 21st century economy, irrespective of the current efforts in place by Governor Babajide Sanwoolu, there must be provision of uninterrupted power supply, quality education, affordable and standard healthcare, affordable housing for all, effective transportation system and guaranteed security.
According to her, for instance, “we all know that Lagos needs stable electricity supply to build a 21st Century Economy. Currently, the state power demand is put at 9,000 megawatts. And, by the year 2030, we would need about 16,000 to 27,000 megawatts of electricity in the state. And what the entire country has currently is barely 5,000 megawatts.
“So, where do we source this deficit? The only way out is to shift our focus on Goal 4 of the SDGs, which is Clean and Renewable Energy. It would be helpful to explore cleaner sources of generating electricity, through solar, waste, wind turbine and biogas, among others. And if that is met, we can guarantee a cleaner and healthier environment for the people because these quoted sources have zero carbon emission,” she noted.
Responding to questions from EnviroNews, Human Settlement Officer, Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat, Mrs. Odunbaku Omoh, said it’s important to give the Lagos State Government a chance to succeed in its new environment-friendly initiatives.
Omoh explained that, “Irrespective of its poor records on displacement of residents of slums in the state, I think it is very important to support the new government’s drive to turn things around. As we all know, this government has been making the concerned efforts to preserve, protect and save the environment from the harmful activities of humans.”
The UN-Habitat Officer however reiterated that part of the strategic approach to resolve the deadlock in slum debacle in the state “is the upgrade of the slum areas to urban cities and provision of basic amenities in these areas to facelift the places into more decent and livable settlements.”
In attendance also were the Commissioner for Housing, Moruf Fatai; Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed; and Acting Commissioner for Waterfront, Mr. Ahmed Kabir Abdullahi.
By Bankole Shakirudeen Adeshina