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At less than 2 metres above sea level, Lagos needs more resilient and adaptive drainage and waste management infrastructure to battle floods and stay afloat, experts warn

Home to more than 24 million people, Lagos, a low-lying city on Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, may become uninhabitable by the end of this century as sea levels rise due to climate change

Home to more than 24 million people, Lagos, a low-lying city on Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, may become uninhabitable by the end of this century as sea levels rise due to climate change, scientific projections suggest. The problem is exacerbated by “inadequate and poorly maintained drainage systems and uncontrolled urban growth,” among others, according to a study led by the Institute of Development Studies.

Residents of Nigeria are used to the yearly floods that engulf the coastal city during the months of March to November. In mid-July, however, the major business district of Lagos Island experienced one of its worst floods in recent years.

“It was very bad, and unusual,” Eselebor Oseluonamhen, 32 told CNN.

“I drove out of my house … I didn’t realize it had rained so much … There was heavy traffic on my route because of the flood. The more we went, the higher the water level. The water kept rising until it covered the bumper of my car … then there was water flowing inside my car,” Oseluonamhen, who runs a media firm on the Lagos mainland, recalled.

Lagos is partly built on the mainland and a string of islands.

It is grappling with an eroding coastline that makes the city vulnerable to flooding, which Seyifunmi Adebote, an environmentalist,   says is attributable to global warming and “human-induced action over a prolonged period.”

Sand mining for construction is a major contributor to shoreline erosion in Lagos, environmental experts have said.  

Manzo Ezekiel, a spokesman for Nigeria’s emergency management agency (NEMA), told CNN that the riverbank of Lagos’ Victoria Island is already being “washed away … particularly in the V.I area of Lagos.” “There’s this problem of the river bank being washed away. The increase in water level is eating into the land,” Ezekiel added.

In Victoria Island, an affluent Lagos neighborhood — an entirely new coastal city christened ‘Eko Atlantic’ — is being built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, and will be protected from rising waters by an 8-kilometer long wall   made from concrete blocks, developers say.

While the ambitious project could contribute to reducing housing shortages in other parts of the city, Ezekiel fears that “reclaiming land from the sea will put pressure on other coastal areas.”

Other critics have explained   that adjacent areas not protected by the wall will be left vulnerable to tidal surges.

Studies suggest that low-lying coastal cities in some parts of the world may be permanently submerged by 2100.  The study published by research group Climate Central stated that affected areas could sink below the high-tide line if sea levels continue to rise.

Global sea levels have been predicted   to rise more than 6 feet (2 meters) by the end of this century. This leaves Lagos, which experts say   is less than two meters above sea, in a precarious state, given that a chunk of Nigeria’s coastline is low-lying.

Beyond Lagos’ vulnerability to climate change, poor drainage systems and clogged street gutters in large swathes of the city are believed to have escalated its flooding challenges.

Adebote further told CNN that for Lagos to stay afloat in the face of floods and rising sea levels, it must adapt to climate change.

“We need to look at our infrastructures — drainage systems, waste management facilities, housing structures … How resilient and adaptive are these infrastructures in the face of environmental pressures and when put side-by-side with our growing population?” he said.

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