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Cablegate: Environmental Challenges in Lagos

VZCZCXRO4802
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0455/01 3351200
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011200Z DEC 09 ZDK CTG SVC MULTIPLE
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1075
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 0632
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH AFB UK
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHMFIUU/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 LAGOS 000455

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - HANDLE ACCORDINGLY
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI PGOV ECON NI
SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES IN LAGOS

LAGOS 00000455 001.2 OF 003


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SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Permanent Secretary of Lagos State Ministry of
Environment Dr. Titi Anibaba told Embassy Accra-based REO and
PolOff on November 16 that despite significant success with
respect to "greening" Lagos and reducing traffic congestion
caused by illegal activities, Lagos faces significant
environmental challenges particularly with regard to waste
management and coastal erosion. Anibaba also outlined Lagos
State initiatives to confront the impact of climate change,
and noted that there did not seem to be any natural brakes on
Lagos' annual population growth of three percent, due largely
to migration. Lagos State appears to be taking its many
environmental challenges seriously, but it is not yet clear
whether it will develop and implement a comprehensive action
plan to tackle these problems effectively. END SUMMARY

-------------------------
GREENING OF LAGOS WORKING
-------------------------

2. (SBU) Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Ministry of
Environment Dr. Titi Anibaba told Regional Environmental
Officer and ConGen Lagos Poloff on November 16 that Lagos has
been successful in its efforts to create parks and plant
trees along roads and on medians. Anibaba claimed that 1,500
unemployed youths and "miscreants," who had previously made
certain areas of the city unsafe, had been involved in
developing the environmental projects and were now employed
as gardeners and caretakers. Lagos is now a safer and
healthier place for its residents as a result of this
initiative, Anibaba said, adding that it had improved the
quality of life for all inhabitants. She noted, however,
that Lagos needed assistance in identifying which species of
plants could survive best in an urban environment because
many of the trees planted along roadsides had died in the
exhaust fumes of Lagos' congested traffic. She added that
Lagos could also use assistance in obtaining software for
landscape design to enable even more sophisticated landscape
planning. Last but not least, Anibaba pointed out that the
Lagos State Ministry of Environment does not have
jurisdiction over the waterways and shoreline (which are
subject to federal authorities), yet these places are where
some of the most obvious litter undermines state efforts to
create a more attractive and cleaner environment in Lagos.

---------------------------------
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR STREET VENDORS
---------------------------------

3. (SBU) Anibaba explained that Lagos State has implemented
a policy of "Zero Tolerance" with respect to street vendors
and the construction of shops and shanties along roads in
order to reduce traffic congestion, pollution and crime.
Anibaba said roughly 1,000 people were employed in the
enforcement of these laws, warning violators of impending
action and giving them the chance to cease and desist before
the authorities take action to remove obstructions. Lagos
has swept away hundreds of illegally constructed shop stalls
offering a variety of products and services. According to
Anibaba, the effect of these measures has been a decrease in
solid waste, fewer clogged drains and less crime. (NOTE:
Fulbright Scholar Sean Basinski challenged Lagos State
assumptions about the impact of the "zero tolerance" policy
at a public presentation in Lagos on July 16. According to
Basinski 70 per cent of Lagos residents live from the
informal economy manifested in illegal shanties and street
vending and the "typical" vendor is a woman supporting
several children, not a youth who is otherwise engaged in
crime and vandalism as alleged by State officials. Basinski
questions where these people are to earn an honest living if
they are forced off the streets, noting that the shop space
offered them by the Lagos State government is neither
affordable nor in commercially competitive locations. END
NOTE.)

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WASTE MANAGEMENT INADEQUATE
---------------------------

LAGOS 00000455 002.2 OF 003

4. (SBU) Anibaba admitted that Lagos currently has no
land-fills, only dump sites, adding that despite development
of a state-of-the-art dump site due to open next year, this
new site will meet only one tenth of Lagos' demand for the
disposal of solid waste. Liquid waste management is even
more inadequate with no public water treatment plant
currently in operation. Anibaba estimated that Lagos needed
five water treatment plants. She noted that in addition to
sewage, industrial waste is still disposed of without
treatment because of inadequate enforcement of existing
environmental laws.

------------------------------------
COASTAL EROSION POSES SERIOUS THREAT
------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Coastal erosion has been a serious problem in Lagos
for a long time and, according to Dr. Larry Awosika of the
Nigerian Institute of Oceanographic and Marine Research
(NIOMR), first began when the British constructed moles to
protect the harbor in 1908-1912. NIOMR claims that the
situation is aggravated by the lack of comprehensive,
long-term planning and accuses the Lagos State government of
reacting with ad-hoc, local measures that often create new
problems later in nearby areas. The situation appears to be
getting worse, and rising sea levels caused by global warming
could make the situation critical. More research is needed
to document, quantify and analyze the impact of coastal
erosion according to NIOMR officials.

----------------------------------------
EDUCATING LAGOSIANS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The Lagos State Government is keen to educate its
population about Climate Change. Lagos held a "Maiden Summit
on Climate Change" in March to draw attention to the threat
posed by climate change, and an "Action Plan" is currently
under development which will be presented at the next summit,
scheduled for March 2010. The state has also produced a film
entitled "If Only" and a children's book which highlights
actions individuals can take to improve their environment.
Anibaba claimed that roughly half or about 500 of Lagos'
schools have established climate change clubs, each with
between 20 and 30 members, and explained that the state has
also launched the "Me and My Tree" initiative which gives
children a seedling to plant, and by monitoring the tree's
growth, encourages them to nurture, value and appreciate
nature.

---------------------
ALARMING GROWTH RATES
---------------------

7. (SBU) Lagos is currently a city with an estimated 18
million inhabitants and growing at a rate of three per cent
per year, according to Anibaba. Growth is largely a function
of migration into the state by Nigerians seeking economic
opportunities. There appears to be no natural inhibitor to
further growth, she noted, although the infrastructure of the
city, such as it is, is already over-burdened.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Lagos State faces immense environmental challenges.
Solid waste management is in its infancy, while liquid waste
management and air pollution controls are non-existent.
Coastal erosion is already a serious problem, and rising sea
levels will make storm surges, already a great hazard, more
frequent and more destructive. Lagos State appears to take
the problem of climate change seriously, but it is too early
to tell if it will develop and implement a comprehensive
action plan capable of addressing the myriad of problems
facing the city. On certain issues, such as waste management
and greening initiatives, the state environmental officials
could benefit from technical assistance by the international
donor community.


LAGOS 00000455 003 OF 003


9. (U) ConGen Lagos coordinated this telegram with REO and
Embassy Abuja.
BLAIR

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