Building Lagos II: Empty islands swallowed by sea

Written by Staff Writer

Lagos Island , which occupies the fringe of the Lagos Lagoon, is being swallowed by the sea.

The island has been severely eroded by sea water, draining what was once a residential community into the water. Thousands of residents from the lagoon and its offshore islands have been driven off the island by rising tides.

A village called Tin Can Island, 1.5km from the shore, is now just a rubble and the only part of the island still habitable. One of the island’s largest rivers has become a trickle, with just one bridge to the mainland linking the island to the rest of Lagos.

Tin Can Island has been left completely abandoned.

One of the last remaining concrete houses in Tin Can Island. Credit: Gary Griffiths

It’s one of many settlements being eaten up by the ocean in Nigeria and its impact is particularly pronounced here in the Cross River State.

Most of Cross River’s shores have been swallowed up by the ocean. Credit: Gary Griffiths

About half of the oil-rich state is now threatened with “undoubtedly the most significant threat to the entire region’s ecology” since the Cross River was formed over the waters of Lake Chad in the late 19th century, the Kenyan-based Nature Conservancy warns in a report.

The Cross River Basin was cut off from Lake Chad by the removal of waters, and Lake Chad itself has shrunk by two-thirds. The state’s population density has spiked with the influx of people forced off the mainland, leading to increased conflict.

“We have an enormous problem because over the last 40 to 50 years, because of Lake Chad drying up and Nigeria’s conflicts, the population on the Lagos peninsula has grown astronomically,” said Kizito Nganga, the director of the Cross River Basin Land Management, Environment and Planning Authority.

Lagos islanders left to live among snakes, rats and rats-nesting rats, having no homes and no water and power. Credit: AOMO OKORIE/AFP/Getty Images

More than 500,000 people are now living on the Nigerian mainland in the worst-affected Lagos areas, while on the Cross River state itself there are about 30,000, he said.

The Lagos peninsula islanders have very little prospect of being able to return to their homes in the near future, as a result of Lagos’ residential development policies.

Lagos state has widened access roads and created a network of marinas to make it easier for the super-rich to build privately on the waterfront.

The city is expected to swell by a further one million by 2040. Credit: Armando Babani/YOUTUBE

Former Governor Babatunde Fashola attempted to repopulate the Lagos peninsula by creating the ‘Lagos Island Conservation and Management Area,’ he said, but there were too few people to attract funds.

So far, the state’s efforts have been futile. Without sound environmental regulations, however, there is little hope for a solution.

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