Flood Management and Governance Structures

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By Lookman Oshodi


Flood is a natural hazard that makes no distinction in the status of any society in the world. Its occurrence in different parts of the world has shown that it is a global phenomenon that does not ostracize any community. Few examples of major floods are in Jakarta, Indonesia (January, 2013), Manila, Republic of the Philippines (August 2012), Black Sea Region of Southern Russia (July 2012), Queensland, Australia (January 2011 and 2013), nineteen States in the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2012), Tennessee, Northern Mississippi Basin in the United States of America (May 2010), Yorkshire in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (May 2007), Southern Alberta in Canada (June 2005) and the Republic of Mozambique (2000, 2012 and 2013). The common characteristics of all these disasters are massive devastation to the physical and emotional fabric of respective environment.

In many jurisdictions, flood hazard cannot be totally avoided, but minimizing its destructive impacts on lives and the environment becomes a strong priority for many governments. Learning from regular flood disasters, certain countries such as New Zealand have come to recognized flood as a major natural challenge to be confronted within the national policy consciousness; hence efforts have been relentless in evolving multi-level but coordinated strategies in building resilience communities and combating the perennial hazard.

However, many countries in the Sub Saharan Africa are yet to demonstrate full preparedness to deal with the problems, despite the increasing threat posed by the flood and possibilities of severe flooding in the future due to climatic and other environmental factors. One factor is a rise in mean sea levels, which will be around 50 centimeters by 2070 as warmer temperatures cause oceans to expand.

Lagos has been identified, by a 2007, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study as one of the identified 20 port cities in the world which, in terms of population, would be most exposed to coastal flooding by 2070. Topographically, Lagos is a low-lying coastal city with most parts of the state less than 2 meters below the sea level.

Flood has become a major environmental hazard threatening lives and properties within Lagos state. Between July and October 2011, not less than 7 major floods were recorded with about 30 deaths and destructions to the properties worth millions of Naira. In the month of June 2012, the torrential rain resulted in massive floods that sent thousand of residents packing. People living in the flood plains across the state and in poorly constructed structures were mostly affected. Many residents were confounded as seeping water flooded their homes while properties worth millions of Naira were damaged as houses and fences collapsed.

Yet, warnings are rife on more flood crisis. The perennial occurrence of the crisis has posed serious challenge to the policy makers, urban planners and city managers. Therefore, efforts at managing the problem require innovative strategies and collaborative approach of all stakeholders.

Urban governance structure is a primary factor in building the resilience of a city towards mitigating or adapting to environmental risk. A devolved structure of governance is a platform to enhancing the capacity of individuals within a community or society to cope with and adapt to disturbances or changes. It provides an environment that enables communities to participate and make decisions in the face of imminent and potential hazards.

For Lagos State to be at optimal performance in flood control and management it would be insightful to consider policies institutionalization and structural decentralization of operations along governance frameworks.


This article is part of the paper, Flood Management and Governance Structure in Lagos, 2013

Lookman Oshodi is a dynamic urban development expert that has, in more than 10 years, contributed immensely to advance socially, economically and environmentally sustainable communities, globally. A result oriented professional that has demonstrated competency in integrating the multifaceted concepts of urban development into public governance.

About FutureLagos

Olamide Udoma is a researcher, writer and filmmaker holding degrees in BSc Architecture, MA Design and MPhil Infrastructure Management. Olamide has worked in London, South Africa and Nigeria with various organisations focusing on transport management, slum upgrading and housing rights in urbanising African cities. At Our Future Cities NPO, she is the Lagos manager and editor.