by Olamide Udo-Udoma
Drive down the majority of main streets in Lagos and you will see trees lining the road and roundabouts with mini gardens. This is because in recent years, The Lagos State Government has undertaken a notable landscaping and beautification programme.
Since the beginning of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola’s first term as the Lagos State Governor, the government has pushed the regeneration of Lagos through various initiatives including using the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) to put in place gardens and parks across Lagos. With the state establishing 17 new parks, there well be a total of 197 parks and gardens in Lagos State. That sounds like an environmentalist’s heaven!
The article ‘Parks and Gardens Development: The Lagos Example’ written by Tayo Ogunbiyi (Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy) emphasizes in great detail the need for parks and gardens in Lagos State as well as the environmental initiatives the government is undertaking.
Parks and gardens are definitely not just a way to make cities look pretty but they can be used for recreation to improve the lives and health of citizens and assist in tackling environmental issues like climate change. As well as these benefits, Ogunbiyi also lists some social and economic benefits, public health, youth development, job opportunities, investment opportunities, crime reduction, social and cultural exchange, and community building.
The development of gardens, parks and the general greening of the city does have the potential to improve the lives of the citizens and the environment, however so far I have not seen any statistics to show this is happening in Lagos. Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola has been governor for just over six years and it is integral to understand the relationship between the policies he has and continues to implement and the lives of the residents of Lagos State.
The article has led me to these questions; where are these parks and gardens, are they accessible and are they being used? If the answer to the last two questions is no, then who are these parks for and how are they benefiting the city of Lagos?
After a day of driving around Lagos and identifying parks, gardens, green space, recreational space and tree planting initiatives, I noticed that the majority of parks and gardens with substantial space are near major roads and motorways, where cars are going at speeds of over 100 km per hour (62 mph). There are no car parks close to the parks and they are therefore only accessible by foot. Although they have play areas for children, seating areas, and beautiful foliage and flowers, it is dangerous to cross these high-speed motorways to access the parks. And apart from the dangers of high-speed cars, the noise and air pollution caused by vehicles are health hazards for potential park users.
While driving past a park near Dolphin Estate, I saw one or two lowly souls walking through and pondering on the wonders of life and I thought, great idea – parks and gardens in Lagos, where one can relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of life but wait, how do I get to the entrance? With terrible choice of location, it is no surprise the parks have been reported to be dangerous and crime ridden.
Another hindrance to the implementation and use of these environmental and social initiatives is education. Without a proper understanding of the importance of green space, the initiatives are being mistreated and used inappropriately, to the extent where they are not used at all.Using inaccessible open space and not educating the intended users is doing the opposite of aims of the landscaping and beautification programme. If people are unable to use these well kept leisure spaces, why are they being developed? Yes, they do have their ecological and environmental benefits, but the social and economic benefits are in fact invalid.
This article was written in response to ‘Parks and Gardens Development: The Lagos Example’ written by Tayo Ogunbiyi (Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy)