When flood ravaged many states in Nigeria last year, destroying homes, markets, offices and even killing people, not many remembered that Lagos State was not affected. Some thought the torrential rainfall in Lagos was not enough to cause a flood, others felt it was the act of God but environmentalists knew it was the conscious effort of a government that could forecast.
When Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State governor ordered the closure of Ladipo Auto Spare Parts Market last week, many people began to speak and argue on tribal grounds but that was not the motive; the reason for the closure was to forestall the potential flood disaster that could befall Lagos State if the drains around the market are clogged with disused engines and auto parts discarded by the traders. Fashola was right to have shown his displeasure, shut the market that had been massively degraded by the activities of the traders who have scant regard for the environment in which they operate.
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years but it starts with poor sanitation habits and ignorance on the part of people like the traders in Ladipo about the essence of keeping their environment tidy at all times. Must the market be shut several times before they consciously clean it up regularly?
In recent times, scientists have had to use physically based observations to explain past climate data, make future projections, and link causes and effects in climate change. A University of California, Berkeley, study found that people that are less concerned about the environment could be motivated significantly when they read articles that stress the need to “protect the purity of the environment” and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog.
Matthew Feinberg, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Stanford University and lead author of the study states that “When individuals view protecting the environment as a moral issue, they are more likely to recycle and support government legislation to curb carbon emissions.”
For Ladipo traders the conditions stated to reopen the market are simple. The state government has insisted that the traders must spearhead a clean-up exercise, and then write an undertaking that never again would they trade on the roads and on the edges of the canal.
Traders cannot continue to litter the canal because the metrological department has warned of heavy rains this year. The heavy rains will inevitably lead to flooding that will not only affect the market but many places as well. The residents of Mushin, where the market is situated, will suffer the most.
It is wise that the market remains closed until the government is satisfied with its hygienic state. Fresh agreement should be reached between the government and all market unions in Lagos State. Traders should be taught environmental education periodically. Posters and handbills should be placed at designated places to prevent people from degrading the environment.