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Eko Atlantic City…Rumbles In The Sea

November 7, 2011

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Eko Atlantic City…Rumbles In The Sea

Sunday, 06 November 2011 00:00 By Tunde Akingbade Sunday Magazine Sunday Magazine
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THE  construction of the proposed Eko Atlantic City by  a private firm, South Energy X and the Lagos State Government is raising fears and concern amongst environmentalists, climate change and disaster risk reduction experts despite the repeated official explanations on the project, and assurances that it is a well thought-out venture.

Besides, The Guardian investigations revealed the existence of submarine canyon offshore, deep inside the Atlantic Ocean.

A canyon is a deep valley, or narrow chasm with steep cliff walls which has been carved out of the earth crust by running water. It is a gorge. There are three canyons offshore in Nigeria.  Amongst geologists, the canyons are scientifically known as Avon, Mahin and Calabar. Of the three Canyons, Avon is V-shaped and it is the largest located in the Nigerian part of the Atlantic Ocean. The shape of the Avon Canyon is like a large amphitheatre with “steep rims” and there are several gullies along the shelf located in the east and west part of the Avon canyon. The Canyon is located along longitude 3”55’ 00” E and latitude 60 10’ 00”N. It is the first to be seen under the sea in the Lagos area followed by Mahin and Calabar in the extreme eastern area of the Atlantic.

Unlike other valleys or gorges on land, Avon is called a submarine canyon because it’s under water, in the sea!

Studies by marine geologists show that there are sharp tributary valleys that are connected to the canyon” within 4 to 6 kilometres of the coastline and in deep water depths of less than 50metres.”

Environmental scientists also told The Guardian during the many weeks of this investigation that the state government may not have properly conducted Environmental Impact Assessment,(EIA) as stipulated by a Federal Government Act of 1992, on the underground forces and nature of the Atlantic ocean bed close to the Bar Beach (where the project is being carried out) and its impact on coastal communities and residents of Victoria Island and Lekki.

 

Prof. Edwin O. Iguibi, Director, Centre for Disaster Risks Management and Development Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said in an interview in Abuja after the International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction discussion organised for youths by the National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA), that although the proposed Atlantic City is a great concept, those who behind it ought to take into serious consideration sea surges that could intrude on land.

Climate Change experts told The Guardian that they fear that with an unplanned city like Lagos, and the low lying nature of Nigeria’s coasts coupled with the problem of climate change, people and properties may be at risk if sea water enters the land area.

An environmentalist, Desmond Majekodunmi, told The Guardian that he is uncomfortable with the construction of a massive city within the Atlantic Ocean when it is obvious that many communities will be affected.

Majekodunmi who had been monitoring the problems of erosion along Lagos’ coastal communities said that its unfortunate that such a project would be embarked upon without proper consultation with stakeholders.

Another fear being raised by experts who preferred to remain anonymous is that Victoria Island and Lekki area in Lagos do not have many exit routes in case of disaster from the ocean.

“Have you ever thought that the only place the teeming population in Victoria Island and Lekki can think of escape is either the Eko Bridge or Third Mainland Bridge, a scientist asked.

Also at an EIA stakeholders’ session recently, the proponents of the projects were accused of not taking into consideration certain agelong scientific information on the Atlantic Ocean in the Western part of Nigeria.

The session took place on October 13 at Oceanview Victoria Island Lagos. It was supposed to be a stakeholders’ review meeting. Apart from shutting out the media from the meeting, many of the coastal communities were not invited too. They were unaware of what was being decided on their lives and properties.

At the session, a group of  experts and regulators faulted the Environmental and Impact Assessment report put in place by promoters  of the proposed project.  Among the panelists were Prof. Dele Olowokudejo, a Hydro Biologist; Prof. Madu , a Social Economist; and Dr. Regina Folorunsho, a Marine Geologist.       While the foreign firm contracted to execute the project tried to convince the audience that the new city would be safe and not cause any impact on the marine environment, the experts insisted that the designers “are creating a problem.!”

“What is going to happen 10 years down the line, asked one of the scientists.

It was gathered that the EIA put up by the promoters of the project does not include plans for thousands of people in the communities that will eventually be displaced when the project is completed.

“They only visited Takwa Bay community whereas there are so many other communities along the coastal area”, stated one of the environmental activists at the session.

 

IT was learnt that the idea of Eko Atlantic City was floated by a Lebanese business concern headed by Chagouri, which has been doing business in Nigeria for years. They are working reportedly with some top Nigerian politicians and powerful forces within the ruling party in Lagos State. The outfit and its executives  were once sent out of Nigeria in controversial circumstances on allegation of commiting acts detrimental to health of the Nigerian economy, though the government action was said to have been politically motivated.  Heads of the Lebanese concern, who were said to have had a cozy relationship with the regime of General Sanni Abacha, were later given a soft landing through intervention of some powerful citizens under the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

Investigations showed that the idea for the Atlantic city probably emanated from the man’s visit to Dubai where he saw a similar development in the sea and he exclaimed; “this is nice and it should be done in Nigeria”, claimed an aide.

A scientist, however, said, “The Atlantic Oceanic is a very tremulous sea; so what you can do in Dubai cannot just be replicated in Nigeria because the situations are different”.

The scientist doubted whether there was a properly conducted Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the Eko Atlantic City as mandated by  the Federal Government of Nigeria Act of 1992.

Another crucial issue worrying observers is the that the land and facilities on the Atlantic city have been sold and those behind it have made their money back, so they may not be bothered about what would result from it in future.

“Although those working on the area claim that they are replenishing the Bar Beach,  where they are taking the sand is different,” said a scientist.

Geologists said that canyons are formed by natural ways and it took some millions and billions of years to be formed through  rivers which erode the land to reach the base of an elevation.  Some experts said that the point at which the river reaches the elevation of a bigger water body is when it will flow into it.

There are no exact theories on the formation of canyons but experts have often explain that factors in the formation of canyons include; erosion, primarily by water, ice, wind and others in continental drift and “slight variations in earth’s orbit. It is believed that this variation also causes change in seasons and climate.

BEFORE the commencement of the project, Bar Beach had been under intense bombardment from storm surge. In one decade alone, 20 storm events were recorded at the Beach. In 1995, the surge reached over 4 metres high and lasted more than a day.

Prof. Larry F. Awosika of Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research,(NIOMR), Lagos, carried out a study on the implication of wave refraction patterns and the implications for breaking wave energy, which invariably have concomitant impacts on the Atlantic Ocean Shoreline. The study is titled “3D Bathymetric Model of Avon Canyon in the Western Continental Shelf and Resulting Wave Refraction Patterns”. According to the study, the results Awosika found are instructive  for the understanding of the waves dynamics, erosion and flooding risks assessment along the Western Coast of Nigeria. It is along the same Western Coast, close to the erosion battered Bar Beach that the Eko Atlantic city is being cited.

At the time Prof. Awosika carried out his study, he was concerned that there was rapid development of industries, oil refinery, methanol plant, housing estates, Olokola port city along the shore. The idea of the Eko Atlantic city had not then been muted.

Several experts have also worked on that area of the Nigerian continental shelf over the years. Amongst these are; Allen and Wells who worked on it in 1962, 1964 and 1965, Stonely (1966), Burke (1972), Merki (1972) and Awosika in 1988 and 1990. Other marine experts have also worked on it and, according to Awosika in his NIOMR technical study, the Nigerian continental shelf is narrow ranging from 35 kilometres in the west to over 75 Kilometres off the Calabar estuary.

“The shelf off the western shelf between Lagos and Lekki town east of Lagos averages about 30 kilometre in width,” said the Professor.

It was the British Admiralty Chart that first documented the presence of the Avon Canyon east of Lagos in 1862 ; and the studies showed there are shallow tributary valleys leading into the canyon, within 4 to 6 kilometres of the coastline and in water depths of less than 50 metres.”

Investigations by The Guardian, shows that the Eko Atlantic city is being constructed not far from the East and West Mole (stone walls) which the British constructed in 1908 to help stabilize the Lagos harbour and allow ships to berth at the Apapa port not far away.

However, that construction of the two moles created problems hitherto unknown to the area and resulted in massive erosion which had eaten up many kilometers of land by the Atlantic ocean over the decades. This was not the intention of the British when the moles were constructed.

“Those who are currently involved in the construction of facilities along the coastal areas may be gone like the British when  environmental problems they have created will manifest,” said a worried enviromentalist.

He added, “The problems they are creating will someday commence on a larger scale.”

 

The Nigerian coastline is low lying; and its erosion rates are one of the fastest in the world. Experts who spoke to The Guardian said that with sea level rise as a result of climate change and melting of the ice at polar region, there will be more flooding and natural activities which will alter the landscape, and affect people and their means of livelihood.

Already, many coastal communities such as Okun Alfa, Lekki, Eleko, Mosherikogo and others are under threat of tremulous sea and they have lost kilometers of land to sea.

One of the things that worsened the erosion and loss of land in Okun Alfa and other communities in Lekki area within the last one year are the wrecked ships that are stuck in the sand at the coastline. Experts hinted that if shipwrecks could alter and displace people at such a rate within a year, the sort of massive reclamation at the Bar Beach for the Eko Atlantic project will worsen the landscape.

Experts are worried about the previous development going on at the Avon Canyon area and the adjoining continental shelf by organisations such as Chevron Nigeria Ltd and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which  are amongst the large conglomerates developing facilities in the area too.

Many environmentalists who work for government and its agencies are also worried about the massive construction work going on in the area but preferred to keep sealed lips, “because of the sensitive, political nature of the projects”, as one of them told The Guardian.

But investigations revealed that the NIOMR study carried out by Prof. Awosika and funded by the Intergovernmental  Oceanographic Commission(IOC) of the United Nations Educational Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO), with the assistance of Prof. Mike Collins and the Southampton University UK, also feared that the previous dredging  taking place along the construction area will also have impact on the natural systems.

The study indicated that the bathymetric configuration of Avon Canyon and resulting wave refraction and breaking wave pattern will have concomitant effects on coastline stability as regards erosion. It is believed that studies such as the one done  by Awosika “will  be useful for the understanding of the waves dynamics, erosion and flooding risk assessment along the Western Nigeria Coast”

Studies of the canyon at the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) show that waves are larger at the flanks of the canyon but smaller at the head of the canyon. Prof. Chidi Ibe and other experts at the institute in 1993 noted that the litoral observations of wave dynamics show large breaking waves due to refraction offshore coastal villages of Igando and Orimedu.

We Have Done Our Homework Very Well, Says Commissioner

ThE biggest canyon on earth is the Grand Canyon carved by river Colorado in Arizona, United States. Unlike the canyon inside the Atlantic ocean in Nigeria which is not visible because it’s under water, the Grand Canyon is 446 km long, and about 29 km wide and attains a depth of over one and a half kilometers, roughly 6,000 feet.

However,  worried by possible increase of storm from the Atlantic ocean and its effect on Lagos and the proposed Eko Atlantic city, which is to be reclaimed from the sea, the state government is planning to create what is described as the Great Wall of Lagos.  The wall is expected to protect the city from ocean surge and possible rise in sea level as a result of global warming.

The government worked with a team of experts and consultants on the project and they have carried out studies and tests on the proposed wall and safety of Lagos and its residents in case there is threat from the tremulous sea, which has constantly eroded the Victoria Island and Lekki shoreline in tyhe past century.

The wall will be be seven and a half kilometres long , six metres high and one and a half kilometres into the ocean.

Last year when 10 European journalists who were visiting the country under the auspices of Heinrich Boell Foundation, on problems of climate change visited the State government in company of the Foundation’s Country Director, Kristen K, at the Governor’s Office, Alausa, Ikeja, Prince Adesegun Oniru, Commissioner for  Water Front  and Infrastructural Development , who spoke to the journalists at a session hosted by Dr. Muiz Banire, Lagos former Commissioner for  Environment, said that what the government had been trying to do is not out of the ordinary; noting that they had worked with Danish experts on the project meant to reclaim lost land from the Atlantic Ocean in Lagos.

The Commissioner said that the experts who worked on the Great Wall of Lagos and how to combat the tremulous sea studied how safe the city would be in the face of storm in the next 100 years and found that there would be no threat to life and properties. He claimed that the expert again looked into another worst case scenario in 1,000 years and found that there was also no threat whatsoever from storm.

Oniru recalled that the fast eroding Lagos shoreline was caused by the construction of the East, West   and Training Moles in the early 1900 so that ships coming to the Lagos harbour at Apapa would not be drifted by waves. The East and West Moles were specifically meant to stabilize the harbour for ships to sail in and berth. The Commodore Channel in the area is dredged by the Nigerian Ports Authority,(NPA).

Unfortunately, the West Mole stops the  water flow from the Bight of Benin in the Western part of Nigeria, causing constant erosion. Furthermore this allows sand to be deposited at the Victoria Island beach and thus reducing the land mass daily.

In his publication on Nigeria ’s Coastal erosion, Dr. A.C. Ibe highlighted various erosion control measures which have been applied at Victoria Island to the present day. He noted that between 1958-1960, there was dumping of ‘sediment dredged from the Commodore Channel at the extremity of the eastern break water for disposal along the beach by waves.’   Subsequently ‘between 1960-1968, permanent pumping station built on the Eastern break water supplied an average of 0.66M m3 pa of sediment from the Commodore Channel to the beach. In 1964 a zigzag timber groin (palisades) running parallel to the coastline was driven in some 26m from the shoreline.

Between 1969-1974, some artificial sand replenishment was carried out but reliable records of quantities or frequency are not available; while between 1974 – 1975, 3M m3 of sand was dumped and spread on the beach.’

In 1981, according to the publication, 2M W3 of sand was dumped and spread on the beach. Between 1985 and 1983, 3M m3 of sand was dumped at Victoria Island .

When the ocean swept structures away in 1990, the government again pumped in sand which cost over N300 million to save the Victoria Island .

It is believed that sand is one of the most important resources in the Nigeria’s coastal zone. Dr. Olusegun Areola in his works has documented the alarming rate of dredging of sand along Nigeria’s coasts, especially in the Lagos area. The sand has either been used in sandfilling the Bar Beach or the swamp and waterlogged areas of Lekki, Victoria Island, Ikorodu  and other troubled sites over the years.

Prof. Awosika and other experts at NIOMR recorded that over 13.22 m2 of sand was dredged from the Lagos Lagoon or estuary between 1984 and 1989 to sandfill 552 hectares of the Lekki phase 1 residential area

Dr. Peter Chigozie Nwilo of Department of Surveying, University of Lagos, Akoka, also carried out a study on managing the impacts of storm surges on Victoria Island, Lagos.

The Tremulous Atlantic Ocean

Victoria Island Erosion Rate Is Fastest In?The World, Says Experts

THE Atlantic Ocean boiled over and washed away about 300 houses at Awoye and Moluteyin villages in the coastal area of Ondo State. That was in November, 1987. The sea incursion affected other villages like Ikorigho, Odonla, Jirinwo and Ogunbeje. Some parts of Odonla and Jirinwo villages which were formerly on shore became part of the Ocean.

Along Nigeria’s over 800 kilometer coastline, the Atlantic Ocean has been eating up the land. In Lagos, Victoria Island and Ikoyi inhabited by Nigeria’s powerful and rich, had always been under the threat of the surging sea. In fact oil rigs ‘previously on land about 150 metres from the shoreline in the delta area are now in the water because of the tremulous activities of the Atlantic Ocean.

In Forcados, oil installations are now in the sea. Studies carried out by experts at the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Lagos confirmed that Warri town, in the South South, and home of Nigeria’s oil industry, has lost some lands around oil installations to the sea.

As a result of the surging of the Atlantic Ocean, most of the areas along the coastline are now less than half a metre above sea level and the slightest rise in sea level had led to serious flooding.

On May 24, 1990 , the angry waves of the Atlantic Ocean swept away most of the structures (stalls) at Lagos Bar Beach. NIOMR experts said at that time that what happened was a ‘freak storm surge which probably coincided with a spring tide.’ The problem was not attributed to the fallout of the much-talked about “green house’ effect, which may also cause flooding in many parts of the World.

Oceanographers said the situation could have been worse if ‘the green-house effect was responsible for the boiling sea’; and the effect of global warming will not be a day’s event like the May 24 ‘freak storm surge.’

The experts believed that the anticipated rise of 1.5 to 4cm of the sea level before the end of the century due to global warming would cause more havoc.

The erosion rates at Victoria Island and other parts of Nigeria’s coastline are reported by experts to be “among the fastest in the World.”  Between 1951 and 1986, the government had commissioned more than 17 research teams to study and tackle the Victoria Island’s problem. Dr. Chidi Ibe, former Chief Research Oceanographer at NIOMR, Lagos, said at a Science and Technology Ministry Seminar in January, 1990 that most of Nigeria’s Coastal areas would be flooded due to an impending rise in sea level. The N700 million IMB plaza (headquarters of the former International Merchant Bank now First Inland Bank) and other multi-million naira State government liaison offices, fall within the high risk areas.

Lagos Executive Development (LEDB) carried out an investigation which showed that the Victoria Island lost on the ‘average, a further 35 metres of land to the ocean, at the rate of five metres a year between 1985 and 1965.

The problem of the Victoria Island started in the early 1900s and this prompted the Colonial British government to construct two break waters known as the East and West Mole “to protect the Lagos harbour from the effect of sands drifting under the ocean towards the mouth of the harbour.’ The moles have however, ‘altered the balance between the rate of deposition of oceanic sediments and the rate of erosion of the Lagos Coast .

Three NIOMR experts, A. C. Ibe, L. Inegbidion and J. Adekanye have carried out a project on Coastal Erosion and Ocean Dynamics.

According to the experts, beach profiling and littoral environment observations were carried out at Badagry, Victoria Island, Forcados, Kulama, Awoye and Ibeno-Eket. The results showed that the ‘erosion rates in Badagry, Kulama and Ibeno–Eket averaged 31m/month 1.2m/month and 24m/month respectively. The experts said at Victoria Island and Awoye, the catastrophic rates of land retreat continued reading over 2.6m and 3.8m per month respectively; adding that the most spectacular retreat was experienced at Forcados where over 20m of land was lost in a period of 9 weeks.

In his publication on Nigeria’s Coastal erosion, Dr. A.C. Ibe highlighted various erosion control measures which have been applied at Victoria Island to the present day. He noted that between 1958-1960, there was dumping of ‘sediment dredged from the Commodore Channel at the extremity of the eastern break water for disposal along the beach by waves.’

Subsequently ‘between 1960-1968, permanent pumping station built on the Eastern break water supplied an average of 0.66M m3 pa of sediment from the Commodore Channel to the beach. In 1964, a zigzag timber groin (palisades) running parallel to the coastline was driven in some 26m from the shoreline. Between 1969-1974, some artificial sand replenishment was carried out but reliable records of quantities or frequency are not available while between 1974 – 1975, 3M m3 of sand was dumped and spread on the beach.’

In 1981, according to the publication, 2M W3 of sand was dumped and spread on the beach. Between 1985 and 1983, 3M m3 of sand was dumped at Victoria Island. When the ocean swept structures away in 1990, the government again pumped in sand which cost over N300 million to save the Victoria Island.

‘We Risk A Tsunami Scenario In Lagos With  The Project’

Nigeria has a low lying coastal area stretching over 850 kilometers; there is the Eko Atlantic City that is being constructed inside the sea in Lagos. What do you think will be the impact on the poor communities in the low lying region of the coast?

Certainly, one fact of the problems has to be one of the consequences of climate change. We are going to have sea level rise. And if it rises by 0.5 meters, half of Lagos is going to be submerged under water.

Well, the concept of the new city in Lagos is fine but I hope the people who conceived this idea, the designers, and architects would also put in place mechanism that can contain sea surges because with the climate, change and sea level rise, water is going to come in-land. That one is not problem enough because we have countries that are below sea level like New Orleans and some other parts of The Netherlands — they are under sea level. But they have structures to take away sea surge when it comes to land.

I hope those who are behind this in Lagos have put in place structures to combat sea surge coming into land. If there is no such thing, we are going to have half or more of the city being submerged under water and there will be no escape route for the water to go back. And that is dangerous if you look at the unplanned scenario that you have in Lagos; although the new government has done some planning, whuch were not there before.

Without Disaster Risk Reduction in place amongst such a huge population, what do you think will happen?

The risk is going to be very high. The last flood disaster in Lagos emanated from what is called hydrologic flood — when you have rain within a short period of time and the canals could not evacuate water into the sea. That is hydrologic. But when you now have what they call sea surges — when the water comes into land and it has to go back to the sea, and in the process of going back to the sea, life, properties are, going to be carried — it’s going to be like the Tsunami. That will be very devastating.

Except something is done to protect the area, its going to be like the Tsunami — which is a sea surge that is caused by earthquake within the ocean. It raises the level of the water impacts on the land and it goes back. When it impacts on the land, it carries people, destroys properties and takes them into the sea.

So, whoever is not lucky is carried back into the sea.

What has been responsible for unusual flooding in some parts of the country and even northern Nigeria in 2011?

The thing is this problem of global warming which is making the weather to behave in an extreme way. It’s part of the climate change that we have been talking about. For example, some places that were not receiving high rainfall before are receiving and this is one of the causes of flooding, particularly in the north. In the past, it was low rainfall that was causing drought but we now observe that the source of high rainfall particularly intensity — so much rain within a short period of time and you find that the environment is not able to cope with the high rain and this makes the whole place flooded.

That’s what we are having now. It’s as a result of the climate change which we have been talking about. And except the government does something about it, it’s going to be very difficult. Unless we take the issue of climate change adaptation very seriously, there isn’t much to do about it because it is when we have adaptation that people can know what to do when flood occurs.

A City Rises From The Atlantic…

Not all that glitters, is gold, so says an age- long maxim. But if the breathtaking architectural drawings, and the ambitious manner with which the project is being executed, are anything to go by, there is very little doubt that soon, a ‘glittering’ city, complete with a scenic view of the Atlantic would become a part of the Lagos landscape.   Reclamation work has reached an advanced stage, and those in the real estate business are already positioning to mine ‘gold,’ that is, the mind blowing profit that would come from this audacious initiative to push back the ocean, and take back good chunk of land for development, in a space starved and heavily cramped up megacity.

The dizzying optimism of those behind the project is so evident. As such, the ongoing construction of the Eko Atlantic City has been variously described as the “most impressive urban development project in Nigeria.” It is anticipated that on completion, this grand dream will provide a new home to 250,000 people and the workplace of another 150,000.

While those behind the gargantuan Eko Atlantic City are busy transporting everyone to the giddy heights of possibilities and benefits of the project, there are others who are now seriously raising eyebrows about it.

Fears are thus been expressed that the grandness of the dream notwithstanding, induced by the realities of climate change, the ocean could mount a ferocious counter-offensive that could possibly blow all the beautiful intentions into smithereens.

According to experts, this may not be immediate, but with climate change permutations in mind, worries abound that the project could end being nothing, but sheer dumping of resources in the insatiable Atlantic.

The Guardian tried unsuccessfully for over three months to get the official reactions of the company handling the project on the specific issues concerning the EIA, the marine environment and impacts on coastal communities across the West African Sub- region. There were many phone calls and written requests for an interview, which were met with, promises to “get back to you.”

The last of these attempts was on Wednesday, November 2, when The Guardian reporters waited for hours at the offices of South Energyx at Victoria Island, with no response from the company.

Valentina Halim, the advert and marketing executive of the company, who later gave the reporters audience, promised to set up an interview ‘soon.’

 

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola unveiled the plan for the Eko Atlantic city on April 23, 2008.

The project’s developers and city planners are; Messrs South Energyx Nigeria Ltd. The contractor is China Communications Construction Group (CCCG), which is described as a “global leader in the field of marine dredging and landfill operation. The consultants are; Royal Haskonic (traffic and transport expertise) and ar +h Architects.

The testing of the sea defense system was reportedly done at the Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI) in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was where the tests to confirm that the city could withstand the “worst storm” surges were said to have been carried out.

South Energyx Nigeria Ltd officials handling the project had informed Position International Arts Review magazine during a facility trip around the site that both Lagos State and Federal government are backing the proposed city; adding that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project had been deposited at the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Officials of South Energyx Nigeria Ltd, told the magazine that the EIA document “contained the initial impact study for putting up a city, which will house close to 500,000 people”.

David Frame, Managing Director of South Energyx Nigeria Ltd claimed,  “We have on going dialogue with the Federal agency. An EIA is a must for any project of this size, the second stage of the EIA is very positive’ adding, “the design of the new city reflects our responsibility to the environment. This will be a sustainable city, clean and energy efficient with minimal carbon emissions.”

The project is a public and private sector partnership initiative. The Banks financing it are, Guaranty Trust, First City Monument Bank and First Bank. They lent $400 million dollars for the execution of the project and the marketer of the project is Diya, Fatimilehin Company. Over 3,000,000 cubic meters has been sand-filled and about 35,000 tonnes of rocks have been dumped at the site.

‘The Project Is Wrong-headed; It’s Courting Disaster’

One weighty voice that has raised concerns about the Eko Atlantic City project is Nnimmo Bassey, an architect and Global Chair of Friends of the Earth International. In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, in May, Bassey who also leads the Environmental Rights Action (ERA), described Eko Atlantic City as a wrong-headed project, noting that the realities of climate change pointed to a disaster in the making.

“Now, the Eko Atlantic City project in this age of climate change is a very wrong headed project,” he declared.

“We have no reason whatsoever to court disaster, when we can invest elsewhere. There is land for expansion of the city because we can have satellite cities elsewhere, and if the problem is taken to be the population in Lagos, solution could be found elsewhere. What is happening in Eko Atlantic is a short term, short sighted project that may work for a couple of years, but when climate impacts really come, it would be a monumental folly”.

The award winning environmental activist argued that what had been going on in the name of Eko Atlantic City is a game being played by people with access to a lot of money. He said the grandiose construction represents a quest by the rich and affluent for “new playgrounds.”

“They want exotic and exclusive places where the talakawas of this world would have no access to. They are looking for enclaves, where they could just go and live the good life, but when you know that the entire coastal area of Nigeria is extremely low line, and a place like the Niger-Delta is naturally subsiding, so it is sinking, and then sea levels are rising. And the sea levels are going to rise more, especially with what we know about climate change negotiations, and the fact that there are no serious efforts to stop global warming.

“Scientists have also estimated that if we have a net sea level rise of one metre, along the coast of Nigeria, the country would be inundated (by flood) up to 90 kilometres from the coast. This means that even a place like Benin City may be challenged. If you look around Lagos, do you see hills; are there mountains here, and then they are going into the ocean?”

Bassey continued: “In terms of engineering, it is an interesting challenge; there are such cities around the world, but we have seen the best defended cities in the United States along Louisiana-Alabama or the Gulf areas, and we know what happened with Katrina, and what happened in Mississippi recently, where the defenses all collapsed, and then disaster took over.

“Why do we need to invest and waste our resources to create problems that we don’t need, when we have more critical need for mass housing, better transportation and better access for people to jobs and other things elsewhere, rather than dumping our scarce resources in the ocean. I think it is not too late to reconsider it.”

‘No, It Is A Bulwark To Protect Lagos’

Disagreeing however, a lecturer at the Department of Estate Management, University of Lagos, said the “Eko Atlantic City is meant to be a solution; if we don’t do it, there would be no Victoria Island and Ikoyi in the next few years. The essence of the project is to build a bulwark, so if they don’t do the project, we are finished. We must look for money at any cost to do Eko Atlantic because it is not an estate; it is not to provide accommodation. Rather, it is a bulwark to prevent the water from flowing to the main land. If we don’t have it, we are finished, so it must be done.”

On the assertion that the city was being built to be an exclusive play ground for the rich, he said:

“Nigeria is a country where you can be poor today and be rich tomorrow. Everybody should work hard; it is a land of opportunities, so the rich should live there. Nigeria is a nation where you can be what you want to be; exclusiveness, and people leaving in high class areas, happens all over the world, not just Nigeria.”

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