A Nigerian city rising fast at risk of invasion from ‘ecological disasters’

By Patrick Wallor

An article in Saturday’s New York Times profiled the rise of a burgeoning white-collar city east of Lagos, Nigeria, that is being demolished by an increasing number of man-made ecological disasters: sea level rise and severe erosion that are swallowing slums, neighborhoods and archaeological treasures.

The challenge is emblematic of the pace of change in Nigeria. The Gulf of Guinea is fast becoming a great, rich source of oil and gas that will be exported to Europe and elsewhere. The region has also seen a sharp jump in population growth — as much as 3 million since 2001, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, the overall population is steadily growing, but with more rural people than urban people, the contrast is stark: The population of Lagos in 2010 was around 27 million. While the capital, Abuja, is surrounded by massive and beautiful green spaces, Lagos has become increasingly crowded, at least in the sense of the term.

The last several years have seen a particularly marked increase in mortality from flooding, due to rising sea levels and erosion. One million people died in floods and erosion between 1960 and 2000, according to the UN. While that number declined to 1.1 million in 2010, it has been rising again recently: 565,000 died last year, according to the United Nations Human Development Report.

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