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Why our environment has failed to emerge: The Lagos phenomenon (II).
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Why our environment has failed to emerge: The Lagos phenomenon (II).


In this second section, I will examine the seven broad-based points that were covered in the first part.

  • Poor implementation of urban and physical planning schemes

Lagos is dominated in part by its system islands, peninsulas, or lagoons. It is low lying, and has an area of 1,171m2. It was the capital of the state and the seat for government at its inception. It saw a huge infrastructural growth programme in the early 1970s. The second republic was founded in 1970 with Lateef Jakande as its leader. It also saw ambitious development programmes such as the failed Metroline project.

After the military intervention, any coordinated and meaningful physical planning was disrupted. This was made worse by the move of Abuja as the capital.

The advantage of the river for transportation, agriculture and tourism was not used in the physical planning of the state. Lagos can be seen as both the Venice of Africa for tourism and the Amsterdam of Africa for its intermodal transport system. With a mixture between affluence, poverty, and both within the same precincts, the zoning pattern has fallen apart. The plans were not implemented. The redesign and reclassification of certain areas of the state were not planned. They were also poorly implemented.

Lagos currently hosts 22 million people. Lagos receives an average of 77 migrants per hour from other states. If this trend isn’t addressed, Lagos’ population could reach 75 million by 2100. There is a large housing shortage, especially for those with low or moderate incomes. The situation will only get worse if rural-urban migration isn’t curbed. Most areas are already overwhelmed with insufficient infrastructure. A federal government policy for population control will suffice for now. To stop the influx of people from Lagos, the Lagos state government should collaborate with neighboring states and invest in them.

  • Urbanization before development

The state’s rate of urbanization is far faster than its development. New settlements should be built to accommodate the growing population and changing demographics. The poor economy means that settlements can grow organically without planning. There has not been a need to create new areas for commerce, industry, trade, and residences. This has led to the conversion of residential neighborhoods into commercial centres. The state’s urban planning and physical units are severely overstretched and cannot cope with the rapid rate of urbanization. The government might consider hiring more people, deploying technology and recruiting students to state institutions of higher education as resource workers.

Due to the economic downturn of the last decade and the absence of a retirement system that ensures their future, residents have turned to real property as their only investment. Many structures in low- and medium-density areas are being demolished and replaced by multi-family or mixed-use developments. This significantly increases the population density and burdens the infrastructure. These structures are often illegal and take up too much space without proper parking provisions. Beauty and aesthetics have been left behind. At this point, it is only the bottom line which matters.

  • Weak monitoring and compliance mechanism

The state’s sprawling development means that the government departments and agencies are unable to enforce physical planning and monitor the development. This problem can be addressed by increasing the number of staff and imposing strict penalties for defaults.

  • Lack of political will to enforce and keep discipline on environmental matters

The state has been engaged in a long-running battle against environmental law violators. The law has always been harsh on those who fail to comply with environmental laws from the beginning of each administration. The grip of the law loosens as the election year approaches and the situation becomes worse. This shouldn’t be the case.

  • Not nurturing and appreciating the natural world

In a previous administration, there were concerted efforts to green up Lagos. This was a miracle, as beautiful gardens were created in areas that were previously trash dumps. The state’s landscape was transformed significantly by the establishment of Lagos State Parks and Gardens. After the tenure, it seemed that the tide had turned. There is a pressing need to create more open spaces for recreation, sports, and relaxation.

These suggestions may not be sufficient to make Lagos a tourist destination of choice, but I believe that their implementation will significantly improve Lagos’ image.

Onabanjo is the founder and director of GO-Forte Foundation. This foundation is dedicated to the restoration of our environment.

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