Written by Staff Writer
Editor’s Note — The story on this page ran on August 24, 2016
This video was produced by Leo Mathew and produced by Razana Khan.
Last month, I visited a humble community just outside Lagos, Nigeria, that is dying by the day from a century-old and seemingly irreversible natural disaster.
Across the Atlantic, the rest of the world wrangles over how to allocate the financial burden of the historic climate crisis, while water-bearing nations continue to suffer from a huge global crisis.
Harmonious Communities for Dialogue and Progress in Lagos is a community of indigenous Ijaw people who, since the 1960s, have been forced to retreat inland from natural flood plains.
Despite relentless torrential rains over the years, current global warming means that floods and rising sea levels have become far more damaging and far more frequent — wiping out their ancestral homes, livelihoods and homes in their villages.
Over the past two decades, life in this community has become drastically worse as environmental degradation makes these waters rise. For thousands of Ijaw, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was one of the worst disasters they’ve experienced, especially since it was one of the few times they saw their loved ones die.
More recent disasters like flooding in 2012, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and recent heavy rains have led to more people dying in the creek areas of the peninsula. But now the community has been confronted with the most dangerous crisis yet, as further climate change is likely to increase their regular floods.
‘Sea-level rise doesn’t affect only Nigeria’
To report on this story, I visited many traditional communities across this region: Ijaw, Itsekiri, Efik, Urhobo, Ifedore, Ebikabowei and Ijaw on Lagos Island.
The leaders of these communities told me that the threat of sea-level rise was a curse and a curse, that the day of reckoning is near and that they must take measures now.
This community — in the worst-hit part of the lagoon due to the tides — was moved by the colonial authorities to construct a town center with markets, schools and markets in wetlands.
During the colonial period, the need for electricity and other utilities was far greater than to improve these communities’ water supply and sanitation.
But today, even though the area is home to this small, Ijaw community, residents suffer. So much, in fact, that Ijaw people have started to move back in.
The city of Lagos is designed to withstand waves and rise quickly — but these water-borne landslides can now threaten communities and cripple everyday activities.
For the past two decades, there have been regular flooding events in the Creek areas, forcing evacuation at a frightening pace.
These are home to millions of people, but it’s increasingly difficult to secure funds to address this climate change-related crisis.