Environmental Threats/Challenges: Makoko Community Lagos, Nigeria as a Case Study

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Environmental threats are effects of human activity on the biophysical environment, most often of which are harmful effects that cause environmental degradation.

Environmental threats are harmful aftermath of physical environmental pollution such as climate changes, air pollution, water pollution, ozone depletion, deforestation, and water scarcity. Environmental destruction caused by humans is a global ongoing challenge.

This article looks into the techniques to overcome environmental issues faced by the water crisis, such as wastewater reclamation methods, desalination, conservation techniques, particles, and gases resulting in air pollution and its effects on humans and health.

Environmental Threats in Africa
We can define environmental threats as the harmful effects of any human activity on the environment.

African environmental threats are caused by anthropogenic effects on the African natural environment and have major impacts on humans and nearly all forms of endemic life.

Nearly all of Africa’s environmental problems and threats are geographically variable and human-induced.

Types of Environmental Threats
. Greenhouse gas emissions
. Human population
. Hydrology
. Land use
. Nanotechnology
. Natural disasters
. Ocean trash
. Water pollution

Water pollution
Water pollution (aquatic pollution) is the contamination of water bodies usually as a result of human activities that it negatively affects its uses. Water bodies includes lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers, reservoirs and groundwater. Water pollution results when contaminants are introduced into these water bodies.

Water pollution can be attributed to one or four sources: sewage discharges, industrial activities, agricultural activities and urban turnoff including storm water.

It can be grouped into surface water pollution (either fresh water pollution or marine pollution) or ground water pollution. For example, releasing inadequately treated waste water into natural waters can lead to degradation of these aquatic ecosystems.

Water pollution can also lead to water borne diseases for using polluted water for drinking bathing, washing or irrigation. Water pollution reduces the ability of the body of water to provide the ecosystem services (such as drinking water).

According to the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE), the major environmental issues in Africa are drought and flooding, air pollution, deforestation, loss of bio diversity, fresh water availability, degradation of soil and vegetation, and widespread poverty.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is focused on the growing urban and industrial pollution, water quality, electronic waste and indoor air from cook stove.

The EPA hopes to provide enough aid on concerns regarding pollution before their impacts contaminate the African environment as well as the global environment. By doing so, they intend to “protect human health”, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and the poor.

In order to accomplish these goals, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program are focused on strengthening the ability to enforce environmental laws as well as public compliance to them , other programs work on developing stronger environmental laws, regulations and standards.

Importance of Environmental Law
The environment is important for human existence. To protect the environment it is important to have some legislation in place. The environmental laws provide a guideline so that we can take care of the environment in an effective manner.

Protect human health and the environment: The main job of environmental law is to protect human health as well as the environment. The role of the environment is to ensure that the practices used in the environment do not cause harm to the environment, human or animal health, in other words, striking a balance.

Waste management in a proper waste management is one of the biggest problems that the world is facing today. It is a very serious problem and finding efficient and environmentally friendly waste management procedures is very important. With proper waste management, it will be easy to protect the environment.

Govern industries and manufacturing: The setting up industries and manufacturing plants are not possible without the environmental law.

The environmental law will make sure that industries meet all the legal obligations that are required to respect and save our environment.

It is the duty of an environmental lawyer to make sure that industries meet all the laws and they are also concerned about the protection of the surrounding and environment.

Protecting environmental officers: Protecting the environment is a very crucial job. Officers who make sure that these regulations are met and respected also need to be protected by the law and should be given the power to do their job in the most efficient way, without interfere from the outside.

Therefore, the environmental officers need to be protected by the law so that they will be able to do their job in the best way possible. Enforcers and officers have to be protected to implement and control without any illegal interference.

The Makoko Community and it’s  Environmental Challenges/Issues

Makoko is a marginal suburb in Lagos, Nigeria´s former capital city, which nowadays is the second most populated city in Africa, with nearly 25 million inhabitants.

Makoko means “fishermen´s village” which is exactly what its first inhabitants were about 150 years ago. In the past their homes, built on pillars placed at the bottom of the shallow salt lake, had a special beauty that made the neighborhood known as the “Nigerian Venice” But nobody fishes in Makoko anymore.

Today, sewage spreads out below the houses and their inhabitants live in one of the unhealthiest marginal neighbourhoods in the world. For decades, Makoko residents have had no access to basic sanitation or electricity.

There are communal latrines, but these need to be shared by around 15 households. Sewage, kitchen residues, and all kinds of materials end up in the water below their homes.

Drinking water reaches the community via pipes paid by their own residents which make up a community of 85,000 neighbors, according to the last census in 2012.

Currently, malaria, respiratory diseases, and malnutrition are endemic problems in Makoko.

The community is at risk due to the eviction promoted by the Nigerian government, which intends to build an extension of the luxurious neighborhood of Victoria Island and to clean the image of the city.

Climate change is added to this complicated situation, making floods more violent every year and testing the resilience of the population to a creeping impoverishment.

“According to UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), about a third (32%) of the world’s estimated population dwell in slums or places characterized as one, due to shortcomings such as lack of sanitation, poor housing structure and insecurity of tenure” (Scalr, E.D et al., 2005).

A projection that by 2030, about 1.7 billion people will be living in slums in underdeveloped countries is alarming.

African ranking listed Makoko as the fifth worst slum in Africa, which has a population of over 80,000 people. Makoko has most of its structures made of wood and silts and built on water.

The environmental impacts of this slum are a major factor to consider when deciding whether the settlement is harmful to the environment.

Environmental and Health Impacts of the Makoko Settlement

1. Air pollution (caused by overcrowding):

Overcrowding which is a cluster of people in an uncomfortable manner is quite common in Makoko. Houses meant for a family of two or three houses over ten individuals and leads to a shortage of oxygen causing breathing problems.

Suffocation can occur among infant as a result of lack of proper breathing. In areas such as Makoko, heart conditions are quite common because of overcrowding thereby affecting child mortality rate.

Overcrowding is one of the main sources of air pollution, and the resultant effect is widespread airborne diseases e.g. chicken pox, tuberculosis, small pox, measles etc., which is common in such areas e.g.

The Ebola virus was fortunate not to reach such locations, as it would have been an epidemic and led to multiple deaths within a short period of time. Air pollution does not just affect the indigenes of Makoko but also neighboring communities.

2. Land pollution (caused by poor sanitation and waste disposal):

The people of Makoko defecate in the water and use the same water to cook and wash their clothing – this is a source of water pollution.

They have no waste collection scheme, thereby throw their refuse into that same water they drink.
Plastic, glass bottles, nylons, metal scraps and hazardous chemicals are just a few of the non-biodegradable waste that is left on the surface of the water.

Looking from a distance, it should be assumed that humans wouldn’t live in such despicable place yet the inhabitants of Makoko community call the place their home. This is to say the level of sanitation there is next to zero, and actions must be taken.

3. Water pollution (caused by stagnant water):
In this part of the world mosquito bites are more than a myth. It’s a daily experience as thousands die from malaria.

Stagnant water is known to attract mosquitoes and other kind of insects which lead to various diseases. Typhoid fever, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery are just some of the waterborne diseases common in such areas.

Asides that the smell of stagnant water is offensive, it could lead to other water related diseases such as dengue fever and leptospirosis.

4. Aquatic species extinction:

Makoko indigenes are known for their fishing activities as far back as the early 90’s. They are said to be originally the Egun people from Badagry but moved to access the water for fish farming.

Air, land and water pollution would deteriorate the life of aquatic species and lead to an extinction. Pollution, over fishing, climate change and habitat loss are a few of the reasons aquatic animals go extinct.

Overcrowding leads to poor sanitation, waste disposal and stagnant water amongst many other environmental issues contribute to the extinction of aquatic life.

5. Environmental degradation

Environmental degradation is the imbalance of the ecosystem of humans, plants and animals, it is a combination of all the various types of pollution and other environment related problem; it is the deterioration of the surrounding around us.

Makoko is a well-known slum worldwide but the growing population has become a source of concern for both the neighboring communities and the government.

On the 19th of February, 2017, the Makoko community suffered a major setback as their wooden houses was brought down by a fire outbreak which led to loss of properties and rendered many homeless.

If this was a first time event, it wouldn’t have raised so much alarm but in November last two years, a similar incident occurred. While speaking with the residents, they said it cost nearly N80, 000 for them to erect a new wooden structure.

Not to be pessimistic, but this occurrence may not cease – fire outbreaks that would render hundreds homeless because their houses are made of wood and the inhabitants use stoves to cook which can be gutted by fire at any given time.

1. With a population of over 170 million, the poverty rate of Nigeria is at 62.6% (UNDP, 2017), this shows forcing the Makoko community to move out and relocate without creating another place for them would be unfair on their livelihood.

The Nigerian Government (Lagos State in particular) should team up with international bodies such as United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), World Bank and Non-Governmental Organizations, to create well-structured houses with facilities for this people.

The planet faces a variety of troubling issues that stem from man-made factors. Many of these lead to environmental problems that cause long-term damage to the earth’s ecosystem.

The Global Issues website explains that the only way to control current environmental issues is to create sustainable development strategies and continue to instill conservation methods.

The following are some of the most common solutions to the environmental issue:
✓Replace disposal items with reusable items.
✓The use of paper should be avoided.
✓Conserve water and electricity.
✓Support environmental friendly practices.
✓Recycle waste to conserve natural resources.


MAKOKO & Her danger to the Environment


About the Author 

Uche Paracleta Ohajekwe is a Legal Practitioner in Lagos Nigeria with core interest in Environmental and Energy law for the protection of personal and property rights and the preservation of the environment.

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