Given its unprecedented growth since 2000, Africa is now among the planet’s fastest growing economies (Leke et al., 2010). This new era of African economic and social development has largely been driven by political stability, rapid urbanization, technological advancements in information and communications, and population growth (UNECA, 2013; Obel, 2013) – the continent’s population is expected to more than double by 2050 (PRB, 2013). Under these recent economical conditions has emerged the desire to build new visionary cities on what is perceived as empty land. Silicon Savannah in Kenya, La Cité du Fleuve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Hope City in Ghana are several such examples. Already underway, the Eko Atlantic City project, in Nigeria, has been at the forefront of this new trend among African cities to create and design influential technology hubs on the continent (Uroko, 2013).
Located next to Victoria Island, in Lagos, Eko Atlantic City is currently being built on 10 million square meters of sand-filled land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. The multi-billion dollar development, a joint venture between the Lagos State Government and South Energyx Ltd., is expected to generate over 150,000 jobs and accommodate 250,000 inhabitants (Eko Atlantic, 2013). However, aside from these important economic benefits, the project’s principal aim is to counter severe coastal erosion threatening Victoria Island since the 1900s. More specifically, the project plans to offer a long-term solution to flooding and coastline erosion by building the Great Wall of Lagos, a barrier of concrete armored blocks along the 8-kilometer outer edge of the city (Royal Haskoning, n.d.). Considering that climate change and the environment are the proponents’ apparent main concerns, one would expect the EIA process to be at the heart of the project, providing extensive coverage on all possible impacts of the mega city on the ecosystem of Lagos and its surrounding communities. Yet, this has shown not to be entirely true.
When digging deeper into the matter, many answers regarding the legality of the EIA process and the true nature of the Eko Atlantic City venture come to light. Critiques of the EIA can be found all over the media, especially from biologists, environmentalists, and lawyers. Among these experts are Prof. Okorodudu-Fubara and Prof. Fagbohun, whose report entitled “Eko Atlantic Environmental Impact Assessment: Legal Issues” (2012) presented substantial arguments suggesting that the Eko Atlantic City EIA was not compliant with the Nigerian 1992 EIA Act. The major transgression, according to Okorodudu-Fubara and Fagbohun, was the fact that the EIA report was delivered to the Federal Ministry of Environment approximately two years after the beginning of the dredging activities, thus annulling the purpose of an EIA and making the gathering of reliable baseline data impossible. Perhaps this “minor detail” of timing could help explain why the EIA Summary does not indicate any specific date – or even, yet, why the full EIA is not available online. Further sources of contention over the EIA were the lack of participatory approach and the failure to fully consider the social, economic, and environmental impacts of Lagos on the new development, and vice-versa (e.g. transportation, urban poverty, waste disposal, etc.) (Amadi, 2012).
To date, there is no doubt that the economic benefits are the main motivations driving the construction of the Eko Atlantic City. If shoreline erosion and flooding were indeed a concern to the Lagos State Government and the developers, the so-called Africa’s Dubai would not even be on the map. The reality is that urban centers fuel climate change by producing nearly 70% of the world’s total CO2 emissions (UN-HABITAT, 2011). Coastal cities are areas of climate vulnerability (Bulkeley, 2013) and are at risk of disappearing due to extreme weather and rising sea levels. Why, then, build a state-of-the-art city in a low-lying coastal zone with the pretext of protecting the shoreline, instead of solely erecting a sea defense? Besides, would it not have made more sense to focus on natural coastline barriers such as wetlands, mangroves, reefs, or sand dunes? Furthermore, how can one disregard the EIA of such mega project? All I can say is that the privatization and urbanization of an open space on the coast in order to establish a high-class enclave for the wealthiest neither sounds environmentally sustainable, socially responsible nor economically viable to me.
Amadi, A. (2012). Brief description of the communities threatened by coastal erosion and displacement. Retrieved from: http://www.ng.boell.org
Bulkeley, H. (2013). Cities and Climate Change. New York: Routledge. 280 pp.
Eko Atlantic. (2013). Invest in Eko Atlantic. Retrieved from: http://www.ekoatlantic.com/invest/
Leke, A., Lund, S., Roxburgh, C. and A. van Wamelen. (2010, June). What’s driving Africa’s growth. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from: http://www.mckinsey.com/
Obel, M. (2013, September 13). Africa Poised For Unprecedented, Long-Term Economic Growth: Seven Drivers That Could Transform Africa Into The World’s Economic Powerhouse. International Business Times. Retrieved from: http://www.ibtimes.com/
Okorodudu-Fubara, M. and L. Fagbohun (2012). Eko Atlantic Environmental Impact Assessment: Legal Issues. Retrieved from: http://www.ng.boell.org
Population Reference Bureau (2013, September). 2013 World Population Data Sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets
Royal Haskoning (n. d.). Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of the Eko Atlantic Shoreline Protection and Reclamation Project – A Summary. Retrieved from: http://www.ekoatlantic.com/developing/environmental-impact-assessment/
UNECA (2013). Making the Most of Africa’s Commodities: Industrializing for Growth, Jobs and Economic Transformation. Addis Ababa: Economic Commission for Africa. 260 pp.
UN-HABITAT (2011). Risky cities: the deadly collision between urbanzation and climate change. Press release for the Global Report on Human Settlement 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.unhabitat.org/
Uroko, C. (2013, June 12). Eko Atlantic leads emerging African cities promising homes for over 800,000 residents. Business Day. Retrieved from: http://businessdayonline.com/