Climate change – to adapt or not to adapt? A look at the Dustbin Estate, Ajegunle, Lagos State, Nigeria.

Sustainable development in the African continent and more specifically in Nigeria, has always been threatened by climate change impacts. These impacts will bring about ecosystem degradation and a disruption of the socio economic processes in the country. Lagos is a state in Nigeria which is a world accepted megacity due to its huge population. However, the coastal areas in the state are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as increased or heavy rainfall season which will trigger off flooding, property damage and temporary homelessness not to mention ill health of residents due to the unhygienic condition of the immediate environment.


The Dustbin Estate as popularly known and called in Lagos is located in Ajegunle area of the Kosofe (local government area of Lagos state, Nigeria). The site is a major poor urban settlement. As is characteristic of such, they have a low level of financial economy, poor education and enlightenment and as such are quite vulnerable. The question of climate change and whether to adapt or not may seem quite far away for such a settlement because survival and food will most probably top the list of their priority scale. However, if there must be achieved a livable, sustainable and prosperous city, the provision of cheap, affordable housing issue must be addressed with immediate alacrity.

The topography of the area is generally low-lying undulating flat landform but with some very rugged areas having scalp slopes and gorges. The altitude varies from sea level to about 15 metres above sea level in some parts of Ogodu, Shaginshan and Magodo. While the area is covered with clay-sandy soil along the coastal axis in the south and clay- loamy soil at the interior part. Apart from the area still covered by forest, most of the clay- loamy soil of the interior have been seriously leached and presently look more like laterite soil. The soils are well drained with the exception of those found in the wetland areas. There are two major vegetation zones that can be identified on the watershed, they are the high forest vegetation in the north and central part and the swamp/ mangrove forests that covers the southern coastal and flood plains, next to the lagoon. The vegetation of the region is that of coastal swamp and marsh forest, part of which had given way to the construction of houses, markets and other infrastructures. The major water bodies in the area are the River Ogun and the Lagos Lagoon in the southeastern part of the area. Other important water bodies, which traversed the area, includes the Majidun and Agboyi Rivers. The climate of the area is influenced by Tropical maritime air mass from the Atlantic ocean, which is warm and wet, and tropical continental air mass from the Sahara desert, which is warm, dry, and dusty. Therefore, the climate is similar to the other coastal region of the tropical West Africa with tropical sub-equatorial climate. The average temperature is always high all year round, with the maximum is 33.27°C, the mean is 26.77°C, and the minimum is 20.27°C. There are two seasons of the area as is typically of the whole country, the wet season and the dry season. The wet season starts from April and ends on October, with August being the little dry season period. The dry season runs from November to March.


The Dustbin Estate earned its name from being a collection of shanties on the refuse dump where a very poor set of people live in Ajegunle. They are incidental accommodation based on a psychological feeling of ownership that the very poor in the community have who despite being unable to purchase land legally, perceive themselves as bonafide sons of the soil and site their homes on the refuse dump. Living on a large heap of rubbish poses a myriad of health hazards to both adults and the children, not neglecting the attendant environmental issues. Whenever there is rainfall, the situation is worsened as the entire ‘estate’ is soaked in flood and people still go about their normal duties in this deplorable state. One wonders how these people survive; they eat, drink, have their bath, sleep, talk and do virtually everything in this ever-smelly settlement. Some of them make money from charging people who dispose their refuse here, but one wonders if the income collected for each pack of refuse could ever sum up to justify and alleviate the prevalent abject poverty and hazardous living.

The Dustbin estate is located in the Ajegunle community which has existed for 200 years and had been experiencing water level rise over the years. Over 70% of the buildings in the Ajegunle area are Brazilian type (popularly known as ‘ face me – I face you.’) typical of the low income group as well as poor communities in Nigeria cities. While 13.1% of the buildings in Ajegunle are traditional compound type and 9.2% are flats.  About 85.9% of the buildings are accessible by roads but, the main problem is that majority of the roads are not tarred and the conditions are extremely poor. The roads are characterized by poor drainage, lack of street lighting, absence of pedestrian walkway as well as on street parking.

Adapting to climate change for this Estate will really be adapting to climate change aggravated flooding in the estate. This is because by reason of the rivers surrounding the Ajegunle area, there is a natural vulnerability to flooding. There is a dam which is located around the Ogun-Osun river basin. The dam is used for water supply to Lagos and Abeokuta. When heavy rainfall occurs, the dam operators release large volume of water from the dam for safety reasons and this naturally results in the flooding of neighbouring communities.

Any aggravation or increase in precipitation in the area as an offshoot of climate change will in turn force the hand of the dam operators to release huge amounts of water for safety reasons and this usually leads to massive flooding. In 2007 a major bridge which is the only link between metropolitan Lagos and Ikorodu (where Ajegunle is sited) was  destroyed by the water surge and in 2009, an area of 2,800 hectares was affected by flooding. There is typically an economic loss whenever there is a flooding experienced as there is a destruction of goods and properties running to several millions of naira.


Flood from Ogun river, 2010, The challenge of climate change in coastal states. www.


This calls to question the ‘do not adapt’ stance which most poor communities in Africa including Nigeria have because for whatever reasons climate change adaptation is not primary on the list of priorities. It is clearly evident that the adaptation to climate change and the preparation for its adverse impacts and effects may be the very bane of our guaranteed continued existence as a people and nation.

ifla pic 4

Flood impact,

Tackling the problem of flooding in Dustbin Estate, Ajegunle must be approached from the angle of what causes its regular seasonal flooding. Ajegunle is built on the right of way of the River Ogun, hindering the free flow of the river into the Lagos lagoon. Whenever the river overflows its banks, then the water movers into the neighbouring community causing flooding and destroying several important facilities. In recent years with the advent of climate change, rainfall recorded has been higher and hence its consequences graver.

Adapting to the incidence of flooding will be effected by ensuring that regulatory measures are put in place and land use zoning should be implemented and enforced. Policies which would restrict urban sprawl close to flood plains should be done. Watershed management principles should be adopted and setbacks from oceans, lagoons, creeks and rivers enforced. Urban forests must be protected as well as the riparian vegetation along water corridors. In Lagos metropolis, storm water management is currently limited to 3 channels systems which are the covered concrete drain, uncovered concrete drain and the earth channels. The area has an evident absence of and degradation of drainage channels in several areas which results in stagnant water. Therefore any form of overflow of rainfall will lead to flooding. Sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDs) is another approach at adapting to climate change impacted flooding in the area.


The philosophy behind this SUDs is to mimic the natural processes by controlling flooding at source. Other methods are; control of rainwater at source through rain water harvesting techniques; Introduction of Retention ponds and wetlands; Creation of swales and basins; Use of infiltration trenches and filter drains; Construction of flood retaining wall and embankment.

It is people who know and are aware that can adapt! Ajegunle is a mixed community where a large percentage are unemployed and semi-literate. It is therefore important to consider enlightenment campaigns to educate the local residents on the importance of clearing the drains and the effects of dumping their waste into the drainage channels and storm water management networks. Creating awareness, enhancing environmental education and a DIY-Do it yourself approach to flood control. Public enlightenment campaign to educate local residents on the importance of clearing drains and the adverse effects of dumping their wastes in drainage channels is also very important.

Green infrastructure promotion is key and it means propaganda for saving the environment by protecting green infrastructure, urban forest made up of patches, wetland on flood plains, riparian vegetation along water corridors and coastal biodiversity, with focusing on monitoring physical developments.

In Dustbin Estate, it is popular for people to be found dumping refuse into water bodies and drainage channels. So residents destroy the city with the waste they generate at home and where they dump them. If the waste can be controlled and ensured that it is dumped properly, then we can reduce the environmental damage significantly.  Another way to adapt is to improve the Disaster warning and evacuation method: People can be trained to handle unexpected natural disaster and to use some infrastructure to predict the existence (i.e. weather prediction system). Such planning introduces the community toward actions protecting their lives, properties, empowerment that minimizes the risk of loss and improves quality of life. Appropriate forecast measures and systems should be put in place. Current demographic trend analysis revealed that the State population growth rate of 8% has resulted in its capturing of 36.8% of Nigeria urban population (World Bank, 1996) estimate at 49.8 million people of the national 150 million population. The implication is that whereas country population growth is 4/5% and global 2%, Lagos population is growing ten times faster than New York and Los Angeles with grave implication for urban sustainability.

In Kosofe now the male population is 527,539, female population is 407,075, and the total is 934,614. The rate of population growth is about 600,000 per annum with a population density of about 4,193 persons per sq. km. In the built-up areas of Metropolitan Lagos, the average density is over 20,000 persons per square km. Lagos state has a population of about 15.5 million in 2010. Population of Lagos state in year 2060 will be 1,364 million people. Increasing population density coupled with increasing frequency and duration of storms surges, possible sea level rise, and other coastal hazards thus result in a greater severity of the impacts of disasters and recovery process will be slower and less sustainable due to limited basic services and lack of disaster warning and response mechanisms. The complex dynamics between population, environment and the real and perceived vulnerability of large population agglomeration sandwiched by hundreds of small communities and villages on coastal barrier island has always been an object of concern. The infrastructure will not be sufficient enough due to overpopulation in the city.  The suggestion for year 2060 is to build neatly arranged residential flats, human source development, campaign of birth control and transmigration to rural area, which provides more employment, better income and life quality than in the city.



UNHabitat: Residential Flat in 2060.

In the 20th century, sea levels rose by an estimated 17 cm, and the conservative global mean projections for sea-level rise between 1990 and 2080 range from 22 cm to 34 cm. Oceans, which have been absorbing 80% of the temperature increase attributable to global warming, are expanding as ice sheets in the North and South poles melt. These events have led to a rise in sea levels and increased flooding in coastal cities. The projected rise in sea levels could result in catastrophic flooding of coastal cities among which Lagos which is the home of Dustbin Estate finds itself. To adapt to Climate change is hence critical and must move upwards immensely in the scale of priority in the area irrespective of income or livelihood of the residents.




Fadera Williams

Fadera Williams