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How Lagos is battling waves of change and Atlantic erosion

The coastline is eroding, driven partly by higher water levels caused by global warming and dredging activities

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How Lagos is battling waves of change and Atlantic erosion
An aerial picture taken on June 11, 2019 shows the Eko Atlantic project in Lagos. (Photo by Moise GOMIS / AFP)

Sprawled around a lagoon, Nigeria’s frenetic economic capital faces a threat from the Atlantic on its doorstep.

The ocean has pounded the soft, sandy shoreline on a timescale far surpassing human history — but now its waves spell a major threat to the city and its booming population.

The coastline is eroding, driven partly by higher water levels caused by global warming but also from the impact of dredging to provide sand for construction.

Global warming, according to a World Bank study in March, is causing the Atlantic to invade Africa’s western coast by up to four metres (13 feet) a year, badly hitting some economically vital areas. 

Attempts have been made to defy the ocean — but critics say they have sometimes just led to new problems.

In particular, a high-end construction project called Eko Atlantic has divided opinion.

Launched in 2007 by billionaire investors with strong political backing, the scheme has been billed as a Dubai for Africa — a hyper-luxury enclave of skyscrapers built on land reclaimed from the seas.  

An economic downturn in recent years has stalled the mammoth undertaking, but already, millions of tonnes of sand have been hauled from the ocean floor to create a man-made peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic from the affluent Victoria Island. 

Surrounding it is what the developers call the “Great Wall of Lagos”, a barrier of rocks and five-tonne concrete blocks intended to run for 8.5 kilometres (more than five miles), designed to withstand the worst storms the Atlantic can throw at it.  

How Lagos is battling waves of change and Atlantic erosion
Photo credit: Eko Atlantic

While the barrier has still not reached full length, those responsible say it has “saved” the business hub of Victoria Island standing behind it from the ravages of the ocean.  

“Today, Lagos is already seeing the benefits of the Great Wall, once flooded roads are now passable and abandoned properties have been reinvested,” Eko Atlantic’s website says.

‘Washed away’ –

But while it is seen as a solution for some, the mammoth project is described as a major problem for others. 

Around 12 kilometres (eight miles) to the east, landowner, Wasiu Elegushi says the Eko Atlantic has caused devastating changes to coastal currents, destroying his small middle-class neighbourhood, Alpha Beach. 

Since construction began in 2007, locals and researchers say displaced currents have washed away more than 25 metres of land from the shoreline. 

“Before Eko, we had nature, palm trees, and coconut trees,” Elegushi told reporters. 

“The water started to rise. Everything has been washed away.”

The shore-hugging Alpha Beach road has disappeared under the waves and apartment blocks built with prized ocean views just 10 years ago are now occupied only by squatters. 

A barrier has now gone up to try to protect the area, but for many residents, it appears too late.

“The way the tides would react to the wall was clear to anyone who understands this,” said Tunji Adejumo, an ecologist at the University of Lagos.

“It shows that the promoters had no consideration” for the rest of the coast, he said.

Eko Atlantic did not respond to questions from reporters about the impact of its construction.

Megacity, mega-problems –

Experts say Eko Atlantic is simply the most prominent example of the impact of large-scale land reclamation in Africa’s largest metropolis.

With more than 20 million residents — no one knows its exact size — Lagos is also one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.

How Lagos is battling waves of change and Atlantic erosion
Photo credit: Eko Atlantic

The city has long been vulnerable to flood surges, but environmental safeguards are weak.

One unanticipated consequence of the city’s headlong rush for growth has been that parts of the seabed have become a moonscape as dredgers have pillaged its sand to make concrete.

An extensive impact study for the state government seen by reporters shows that the once smooth ocean floor now has gigantic holes up to eight metres deep, some of them perilously close to the shore.

Experts say such craters can compromise the safety of coastline properties, and some structures in poorer waterfront communities are already collapsing.

Elsewhere, what were once shallow swamplands in Lekki, a peninsula dividing the Lagos lagoon from open sea, were reclaimed in the 1990s to become a middle-class residential area.

Lekki is now home to hundreds of thousands of people, but the former wetlands are progressively sinking and poor drainage is a major source of flooding.

“Several communities (in the city) have already been swept away. If nothing is done, Lagos will be submerged by 2050,” Chief Ede Dafinone, president of Nigerian Conservation Foundation has cautioned.

And in the ocean-front areas bearing the brunt, locals are already counting the cost. 

On Alpha Beach, people are gloomy.

“People have land here but don’t even build on it; they’re afraid,” said Bobby Isowshe, who sells refreshments on the beach. “The businesses don’t really do well anymore.”

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East Africa News

International election observers flag concerns over Mozambique’s polls

The country voted in general polls on Tuesday after a campaign marked by violence and claims of electoral fraud

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International election observers flag concerns over Mozambique polls

International observers on Thursday said Mozambique’s election was conducted in an “orderly manner”, but expressed concerns about voter registration irregularities and “an unlevel playing field”.

The country voted in presidential, parliamentary and provincial polls on Tuesday after a campaign marked by violence and claims of electoral fraud.

President Filipe Nyusi’s Frelimo party — which has ruled Mozambique since independence in 1975 — is widely expected to again beat its civil war foe, Renamo, a former rebel group turned main opposition party.

Election day was seen as largely peaceful, but tensions have risen with uncertainty over when the results will be released.

The final results must be published within 15 days of the vote, but the electoral commission has indicated a provisional tally — which had been expected on Thursday — would not be issued.

Ignacio Sanchez Amor, leader of the European Union’s OSCE observer mission, said “voting procedures were well-implemented” on election day.

However, he said the fact that there were no observers in almost half of the country’s polling stations “did not contribute to the transparency of the process”.

Amor added that “an unlevel playing field was evident throughout the campaign”.

READ: Mozambique votes in tense election after violent campaign

“The ruling party dominated the campaign in all provinces and benefited from the advantages of incumbency, including use of state resources.”

The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) said it was regrettable that irregularities in voter registration had not been addressed before the vote.

Local non-profit observer groups had reported the presence of 300,000 “ghost voters” — names not aligned with real voters — on the electoral roll in the southern Gaza province.

“Key aspects of the process such as the security challenges, voter registration, the campaign and selective accreditation of citizen observers posed challenges to the integrity of the elections,” said EISA Mozambique head and former Ghana President John Dramani Mahama. 

Former Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said the Commonwealth’s observer mission “remained concerned about the impact” of the suspected ghost voters on the election.

However, observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had no such concerns.

READ: Mozambique’s Renamo party says members attacked after peace deal

“The pre-election and the voting phases of the 2019 electoral processes were generally peaceful and conducted in an orderly manner,” said Zimbabwean Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, the SADC observer head.

The election has been seen as a key test of the peace deal sealed in August between Frelimo and Renamo, which fought a brutal 1975-1992 civil war.

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East Africa News

Landslide kills 22 in southern Ethiopia

Officials say the landslide in the district of Konta occurred Sunday following 10 hours of heavy rains

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Landslide kills 22 in southern Ethiopia
(File photo)

Rescue workers on Tuesday used excavators to dig out bodies after a landslide in southern Ethiopia washed away homes and killed more than 20 people, a local official said. 

The landslide in the district of Konta occurred Sunday following 10 hours of heavy rains, said the official, Takele Tesfu.

“There are 22 people dead and we have only been able to dig up 17 using manpower and machine power,” Takele told reporters.

“So far, we cannot get the others, so tomorrow we will continue to dig.”  

He said the victims included nine women and six children.

While the district — located in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region — sees landslides with some regularity, Takele said this was the deadliest he could remember. 

“The area where this occurred is very mountainous, and this means the landslide was very dangerous,” he said. 

Ethiopia is nearing the end of its rainy season, but security forces are nonetheless relocating some families for fear that more rain in the coming days could lead to similar disasters, Takele said.

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