Nigeria: Community on Lagos island engulfed in sea as countries fight over who should pay for climate crisis

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“Over there, this was where we had our asphalt road before,” Elegushi said. “We also had our electric poles and a health center there … You can see the remaining particles,” he adds, pointing to the debris.

The resort’s extinction has crippled the community of Okun Alfa and those around it, and is just one of many losses for residents here, whose neighborhoods have been ravaged by frequent tidal waves. both by the climate crisis and dubious town planning.

This is not a sleepy island, but rather the bustling central business district of Lagos. It is densely populated with residential houses and high rise buildings. The people of Okun Alfa fear that the complete immersion of their community is no longer a matter of if, but when.

Vast swathes of Okun Alfa’s landscape have been consumed by the sea, the community’s ocean wave response manager Oladotun Hassan said. It’s half the size it once was. Properties that were far from the ocean 10 years ago are now just steps away.

“Many years ago we would go on long hikes to get to the sea,” Elegushi said. “There were no houses near the shore.”

He added that for decades, Okun Alfa residents have moved their homes farther and farther from the shore, as flooding and sea level rise erode the coastline they once overlooked. But there is a limit to the distance they can go back.

“There is no more land to go to,” Elegushi said.

On Lagos Island, the coast even approaches the palace of Okun Alfa’s traditional ruler, Chef Elegushi Atewolara Yusuf. And here is his new one – his oldest has already been swept away by the sea.

“I lost my palace. You can see we just built this (new palace). The old palace is inside the ocean.”

As the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow enter the most intensive negotiating phase, the money needed for developing countries to adapt to the climate crisis is proving to be one of the most contentious issues .

The COP26 presidency sought to get rich countries to fill the void and pay their fair share of the $ 100 billion pledged per year by 2020 for countries of the South to adapt to changes like these. here on the island of Lagos.

The industrialized countries have contributed much more to the crisis than the developing countries, but they have missed this target and although more money is promised in Glasgow, it is just flowing.

A management problem, a climate problem or both?

A sea level rise projection from Plymouth University showed that an increase of just 1 to 3 meters “will have a catastrophic effect on human activities” in Nigeria’s coastal environments, including Lagos, a lower town on the Atlantic coast. Scientists say a rise of up to one meter could occur by 2100 if emission levels do not drop significantly.

Another study, published in Nature, found that some of the world’s low-lying coastal cities could be permanently submerged by then.

But, like so many of the worst impacts of the climate crisis, human management of the natural and built world is exacerbating problems such as retreating coastlines.

On the island of Lagos, community leaders criticize the construction of a brand new coastal town, called “Eko Atlantic”. They say the project has aggravated the rising waters towards their part of the coastline, pushing their homes underwater.

The city is built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic, on a former beach on Victoria Island of Lagos.

Dilapidated buildings are seen along the coast of Lagos Island.

Nigerian environmental activist Similade Adeodun told CNN that the construction of Eko Atlantic made the usual methods of adapting to sea level rise in Okun Alfa more difficult.

“Land reclamation is a major issue in tackling sea level rise and building resilience,” Adeodun said. “The Eko Atlantic project pushes the water that used to occupy where they are now scavenging to neighboring coastal communities… So this has increased the sea level in places like Okun Alfa. The higher the water rises, the more devastating the impact. “, did he declare. noted.

David Frame, the managing director of Eko Atlantic, denies that the project creates these problems.

“It doesn’t,” Frame said in an interview with CNN. “We hired consultants to design the dike structure and the reclamation process for Eko Atlantic, and they’ve tracked this progress from the start.

He explained that the role of the consultants was to ensure that the dredging contractors did not take sand from the seabed beyond a point known as the “minus 15 contour”.

“This is the point at which, if you dredge closer to shore, you’re going to affect the shore.”

He said the method used was in line with international standards.

“So the dredging operation did not cause any erosion on the coastline.”

But Tajudeen, another Okun Alfa community leader, isn’t buying it.

“Eko Atlantic gave us a very serious problem,” he said.

“The ocean has disturbed us, shattering houses, including those that are not near the shore. He just comes to break them. Some people built concrete block houses with many rooms, but now they sleep in makeshift structures made of planks.

Tajudeen told CNN that a protective barrier erected by the government 10 years ago helped reduce tidal waves at Okun Alfa.

“After many complaints, the government erected breakers in parts of the ocean. Without the breakers, there would have been no one in this village,” he said.

But just by looking at the barriers, it is clear that their construction was never fully completed.

This is why there is always a continuous penetration of seawater into the land, Elegushi said.

“The work was stopped. That’s why the water is still coming in. The government promised to do more. It was only half,” he added.

Another resident, Jidah Saed, said Okun Alfa was not yet safe.

“When they started the circuit breakers in 2011, the idea was to extend it about 1,000 meters. Unfortunately, they couldn’t complete the project. If they had completed it, we would be safe.” , Jidah told CNN.

Stone breakers can be seen along Alpha Beach on Lagos Island.

Authorities in Lagos did not respond to CNN’s request for comment, but a 2018 Lagos State Government statement said “construction is an ongoing project subject to the availability of funds” and urged communities “to fulfill their civic responsibility to government by paying their taxes. promptly.”

An official Lagos website released a statement from the state surveyor general in June claiming that Eko Atlantic City “is a unique megalopolis founded on new ideas and innovations for an environmentally friendly and sustainable Grand Lagos “.

The developers of Eko Atlantic say the project is a way to prevent parts of the island of Lagos from being eroded by erosion.

“Victoria Island, Extension VI, Lekki Phase 1 and the best part of Lekki Phase 2 are permanently protected by Eko Atlantic,” Frame said from Eko Atlantic.

Nigeria calls for more foreign climate finance

Hassan, head of ocean wave response at Okun Alfa, says local funding will be insufficient to tackle Nigeria’s climate challenges. He also cites the need for the country to access more green financing.

Garba Shehu, spokesperson for President Muhammadu Buhari, told CNN in a statement that additional funding to adapt to issues such as receding coastlines was crucial. This has been a key demand from Nigeria during the COP26 talks.

“We are 100% committed to the global zero emissions goal… Then, of course, we want the rich countries to fulfill their obligation by paying the $ 100 billion of the Paris Agreement,” Sherbu said.

On the island of Lagos, buildings that were far from the ocean 10 years ago are now just steps away.
In 2009, developed countries agreed to transfer $ 100 billion per year by 2020 to developing countries to help them reduce their greenhouse gases and adapt to the climate crisis. This goal has still not been met and developing countries at COP26 are complaining that not enough of this money is going to adaptation.

“We have already committed to reducing 20% ​​(of emissions) as a national target; with financial support, we are ready for around 45% by 2030,” Shehu added.

Environmentalist Adeodun argued that Nigeria has not been able to receive sufficient funds for climate adaptation due to “mismanagement” in the country. He is very careful not to directly say where he thinks previous funds allocated to Nigeria’s efforts have gone.

“Due to mismanagement, Nigeria is not able to access sufficient funding to accelerate our resilience and adaptation projects and programs,” Adeodun said.

“If Nigeria is going to ask for support, it should be in terms of scaling up our projects and our solutions to climate issues.”

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