Horrific images of rotten animal carcasses and the pictures of millions of children whose bare skeletons can be literally seen from their physical structures across our TV channels would attest to the ongoing drought in the horn of Africa.
According to the UN, the drought has been caused mainly by the failure of rainfall for two consecutive seasons. As a result, over 10 million East Africans are reported to be undergoing terrible humanitarian crisis, a proportion of which has not been seen during the last 60 years.
Sadly, the opposite of drought was what happened in Lagos on Sunday the 10th of July 2011. It was the day it rained fire. The heavy torrential which my 90 year old dad hasn't seen in his lifetime did not only disrupt business activities, it caused severe damages to lives and properties worth billions of naira on a rough sketch.
As can be deduced from most arguments so far, the heavy down-pour is a result of our gradually changing climate, though not everyone agrees as some would argue it is the anger of God wrought on Lagos for our sins. But whether it is the wrought of God or our changing climate which caused the historic torrent, the question is: what has gone wrong with management and planning?
Lagos state has for long been known as a coastal area which sees huge floods and disasters year on year and planners must know that the day will come when almost every activity will be grinded to a halt if something urgent is not done to address the catastrophic flooding in the state. Now the day has come.
Though, the state government warned Lagosians well-enough before the torrential rain about the looming flood and disaster, but far-more could have been done to mitigate the impact of the disaster by governor Fashola and his Eko- oni baje team.
The governor, who has spent billions of tax payers' money on constructing roads and providing modern infrastructure should have known better that no matter how much money is spent on repairing roads or the construction new ones. It takes only a couple of disasters caused by flood to erode such huge investment and infrastructure especially given the imbalance state of development across the state.
Certainly, for any governor to achieve any sustainable form of development in Lagos, the issue of flood management must be of top priority because without addressing such issue properly and immediately, efforts geared at other forms of development may be eroded sooner or later.
That said, we must acknowledge that the enormity of such task is beyond the state and requires the support of the federal government which has been so far unyielding.
For example, in October 2010 when flood displaced about 1,000 people across the state, Governor Fashola complained that "NEMA bringing relief materials here is immaterial because we applied for ecological funds from the Federal Government to manage our flood which has not been given to us since the past three years".
Though it is through such financial channel that a serious project could be constructed to significantly address the state's annual flood disaster, however, in the absence of a responsible federal government, the state must alternate and re-consider its priorities because the lives and properties of over 18 million Lagosians cannot be left in the state of continuous chaos year after year.
By re-evaluating and reprioritising the state's development plan, urgent attention must be given to how flood and other forms of disasters can be well managed. It is obvious that Lagos needs super flood gateways and better strategies towards mitigating the impact of future torrential rainfalls.
As a late development state, Lagos simply needs to tap into the measures and strategies employed by other developed states within Africa and beyond. Looking at Japan for example â€“ the G-Cans Project which is an underground water infrastructure is the sort of system that Lagos needs.
The G-Cans infrastructure prevents overflow of the city's major waterways and rivers during rain and typhoon seasons (See video link).
Having a number of such discharge channels flanked by modern canals and sewages would considerably give Lagosians a huge sigh of relief from the damages caused by annual flood. Other stringent flood control measures must equally be employed to manage future disasters.
Modern town planners would divide flood protection measures into three areas: constructive precaution, behavioural precaution and flood management. The first entails giving better attention to town planning and reopening retention areas while employing physical measures such as walls, canals, barriers and other necessary infrastructure to check the impact of flood of any proportion. The second, behavioural precaution is about establishing operational bounds, creating modern flood protection and operational centres, data capturing, flood forecasting and risk mapping.
The third is about flood information dissemination and provision of adequate warning notices for communities, as well as organization of waste and disaster management, street cleaning and management of the situation both during and in the aftermath of the flood.
While the administrators of Lagos must be thanked for employing some of such measures. The administrators can equally be blamed for doing too less to check the spate of continuous havoc wrecked by flood in the state year on year.
It is not all about spending huge billions on big projects all the time but sometimes about establishing policies and consistently implementing such policies.
It can be through simple acts such as enforcing that no pure water nylon or waste is thrown or dumped on the floors and in the gutters, or by directing all future builders and landlords to construct houses which are flood compliant without pushing the prices too high.
It can also be by building better maintenance culture or through the re-evaluation of the state's town planning processes and structures. In Lagos, too many houses and structures are built on water channels and that is part of the problem.
The state should take proactive measures by demolishing such structures using approaches that are humane. Beyond all, the recent flood is a wake up call for Gov. Fashola and his team. First, the mess done by the recent flood must be proactively cleaned-up following which a serious rethink of the state's town planning and urban design has to be reconsidered.
As a matter of urgency, the state must also stop every major sand-filing project until the impact of such projects has been appropriately determined by a proper commission.
These little steps will go a long way but nothing will help significantly than reprioritising the state's development plans and budget for the next coming years to enable serious work on the yearly flood disaster.
As much as the lush green, beautiful and fascinating flowers planted across the state adds to the transformation process. The real transformation begins when floods and other disasters can be well managed without making fuss about it.
That is what defines a real mega-city, not the numbers and not the population.
It is the readiness and swiftness of response to the management of emergencies and disasters that will define the real-mega status of Lagos in the coming years.
It's a matter of urgency and governor Fashola must rise up to the task.