Despite the threat posed by flooding and sea-level rise, relatively little attention has been paid to the potential for environmentally induced instability in coastal West African cities. However, current trends, including rapid population growth, land use patterns, and increasing climate impacts, suggest the costs of inaction in these urban areas are rising.
As part of a research project for USAID, the Foundation for Environmental Security and Sustainability recently conducted a study in Nigeria and Ghana to examine the vulnerability of Lagos and Accra to climate-related conflict.
In the short term, it is unlikely that climate stresses will lead to significant conflict in either city, but the outlook is less clear further out. Early signs of social discontent linked to climate change are visible, although interwoven with economic, social, and political grievances. Whether these complaints evolve over time into scenarios more ripe for conflict or find satisfactory resolution will hinge on the effectiveness of government actions to reduce vulnerability and alleviate the sense of injustice already felt by climate-affected communities.
Lagos: A Victim of Its Own Success?
With a fast-growing population of more than 21 million people, the hot and rainy coastal megacity of Lagos is the financial and commercial engine of Nigeria. The national government faces serious threats to stability from political struggles between a predominantly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south, conflict over oil revenues in the Niger Delta, and the rise of the violent Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram. Lagos, by contrast, is increasingly an economic success story. Despite millions of poor inhabitants, the per capita GDP of Lagos State is 33 times that of the 10 poorest northern states.
Fifteen years ago, Lagos was known as something of a basket case, with incredible crowding and legendary traffic jams. Since then key aspects of public services have improved significantly, including a comprehensive program to deal with solid waste management and clear the streets of refuse by the Lagos Waste Management Authority. But new challenges have emerged, in part thanks to these improvements.
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