The world is alarmed at the effect of mudslide in Sierra Leone which has claimed hundreds of lives not to mention properties destroyed. That disaster did not just occur. Though natural, people’s attitude may have aided it. As the rains commence in Nigeria, we recall an earlier editorial with the above caption in which we called for an attitudinal change.
The impact of flooding in Lagos and other parts of the South of the country is really devastating. In parts of the North too, the natural phenomenon is taking its toll on the environment leading to deaths and displacement of people and, in some cases, whole communities.
There are factors responsible for this occurrence that has become perennial. They include climate change and the abuse of the environment by those who will eventually pay the price for their improper attitude.
A lot has been said about climate change, especially at the international level, that people should stop and ponder when they indulge in certain behavioural disposition that actually hurt the environment.
Climate change has been generally defined as a change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns when that change lasts for an extended period of time. It may refer also to a change in average weather conditions, or in the time variation of weather around longer-term average conditions and is caused by factors such as biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics, and volcanic eruptions. Certain human activities, however, have been identified as primary causes of ongoing climate change, often referred to as global warming.
But in Nigeria, the damage is done more by the people’s behavior that, in a manner of speaking, ease the job the floods have to do when they come. Let us consider them one after the other. In a place like Lagos, the mad rush for land reclamation without regard for environmental impact is the major reason that city is horrifyingly affected whenever the rains come.
Places like Lekki, Banana Island, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, particularly the once popular Bar Beach, are today reclaimed and built up. What no one is asking is, that water that is being displaced to create land, where is it going to? Nowhere. It is there, locking in the shadows waiting to come back as floods to take what belongs to it. In Lagos, houses are built in areas mapped out as water channels. That area becomes prone to flooding because the water believes it has a right of way.
In the North, deforestation and desert encroachment are the major culprits. When the forests are depleted through those processes and also bush burning, the soil is exposed to the elements and the effect, depending on the season, is massive degradation and displacement of communities. There are also mindless excavation of land and the abuse of flood plains which make them susceptible to damage either by the rains or the scorching sun.
The sad aspect of this behaviour is that the people carrying out such environmentally unfriendly acts know what they are doing and the possible effects. Yet they carry on with it because there are some short time benefits to derive from it especially pecuniary. But soon it becomes a thing to regret when the property unwittingly put on harm’s way goes down in ruins.
Part of the blame, in our opinion, also goes to poor infrastructure. When roads are built without drainage and flood channels, when the rains come as they naturally will, they find their level. But before the floods come, there are, always, warnings from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). But, in most cases, those warnings are not heeded until it is too late.
We accept that there are natural angles to flood disasters that are beyond any government or agency. That is why they are called natural disasters. But blocking the few drainage structures in place are human not natural. Insisting on building houses on flood plains against expert advice is human. Excavating sand and causing erosion are human. Deforestation without afforestation is also human and an invitation to disaster that must come.
The answer to the problems of flood, especially in Nigeria, in our view, entails an attitudinal change on the part of the government and people. The government and its agencies often do not take adequate proactive measures capable of preventing flood and its effect. There is no argument that the dearth of infrastructure often always prepare the ground for the kind of destruction we see each time there is flood.
With the appropriate political will by the government and its agencies, the effect of flooding can be mitigated if not altogether controlled. Sending foodstuff and bedding to victims of flood can become unnecessary if the right things are done before the floods come. These include provision of water channels and drainage as well as the people resisting the temptation to block existing ones with their refuse believing that when the flood comes, it will wash them away. To where?
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