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The long road to resilient cities in Africa

The need to build climate & disaster resilience in cities – Project example in Ibadan Urban Flood Management Project (IUFMP



My journey to Ibadan, Nigeria supporting the World Bank's - Ibadan Urban Flood Management Project (IUFMP) gave me an opportunity to reflect the challenges of such infrastructure projects and the complexities of building resilience in cities.

Reading a recent blog post from the Sustainable Communities series, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Director of the World Bank Group, stated, "The backbone to building resilient cities is quality infrastructure, this sense of urgency should not lead cities to compromise on quality." considering this statement coupled with the poor conditions and crumbling infrastructure in many of our cities, perhaps identifies the true scale of investment required for cities to become truly resilient to climate change.

With the increasing trends of urbanization, approximately 2 billion people are expected to leave villages and farms to live in cities by 2030, and of that, around 50% will move to African cities. Currently in Nigeria, about half of the total population of 150 million lives in cities, compared to 35.3 percent in 1990, generating 60 percent of the country's GDP.  

However, this rapid urbanization, which is largely unplanned and uncoordinated, has deepened many challenges in Nigerian cities including solid waste and waste water management, access to basic infrastructure, preparedness to potential natural disasters and climate change. Due to these challenges as well as weak institutions and poor infrastructure, Nigeria is reaping limited benefits of urbanization.

One of the significant threats that Nigeria is facing is the increasing persistence of flood. Frequent flooding cycles are having tremendous impacts on the country's GDP growth and reversed hard-earned development gains, which affect the vulnerable populations the most, including those live in the poorest communities. Over the last 30 years, more than 40 flood events have been recorded in Nigeria, impacting over 10 million people. According to a disaster and climate risk assessment undertaken by the World Bank, water availability will remain stable in only 20% of the country over the coming decades. The remaining 80% will face very different water cycles than those experienced historically; and many areas are subjected to increase risks of floods. The assessment also indicates that climate change is expected to affect Nigeria's ability to attain its 20:2020 visions.


Ibadan, Running Splash of Rust and Gold

Ibadan is the third largest metropolitan area in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano, with a population of 3.1 million. The population of the city has been rapidly grown from around 60,000 in the early 1800s and is projected to reach 5.6 million by 2033. In this regards, the city's urban footprint has also increased considerably to its current extent. This sprawl is primarily due to weak land use planning, leading to low population densities especially when compared to other large cities.  This sprawl increases contributes to the unsustainable costs of infrastructure development and maintenance, which reduce the urban efficiency.

Ibadan is also highly exposed to frequent flooding events. The latest flood event on August 26, 2011 caused the death of more than 120 people and serious damage to key infrastructure. Many bridges collapsed, roads washed away, and the Eleyele dam and the waterworks were severely impacted, which has not been functional since then.

The previous responses to the flooding events have been piecemeal. It was primarily focused on alleviating immediate and short-term needs, using traditional methods and materials such as concrete. However, there is a greater shift in policy emerging from the Federal and State levels; the paradigm has changed from "reactive disaster response" to "preventive flood risk management." Recognizing the need for an integrated and long-term solution to flooding in Ibadan, the Oyo State Government requested the World Bank's support.

The Ibadan Urban Flood Management Project (IUFMP) a $200 million IDA credit aims to repair and improve several of the critically damaged infrastructure affected by the floods of 2011, strengthen community-based resilience capacity, and provide support for risk assessment and early warning systems to mitigate any future flood occurrences.

The adoption of a framework design approach for the Ibadan Urban Flood Management Project (IUFMP) effectively sets the "rules of the game" and allows infrastructure investments to be selected on a dynamic basis following the adoption of strategic city Masterplans – drainage, solid waste, urban. The masterplan studies will provide the opportunity to create a balance of investments in structural and non-structural.


The clear connection between solid waste and flood is alarmingly evident in Ibadan, a disconnected solid waste management has become an enormous challenge, which is severally contributing to the cities capacity to cope with flood scenarios, and contributes to the poor environmental conditions, as much of the waste is being burnt releasing harmful pollutants effecting the cities air quality.

During our mission we discovered that five of the world largest dumpsites were in Nigeria, and in fact two of those dumpsites are in Ibadan considering the relatively low population is particularly alarming. It is program within the project to assist in creating a solid Waste Masterplan, although to ensure sustainability a major focus is needed to change behavior and to educate communities on the effects of discarding trash.

Which reminded me a rap video created by a young Hip-Hop group from Kenya, which features members of TS1, winners of Connect4Climate's Voices competition, and using music to raise awareness of the issue of trash and the potential opportunities. This approach alone will not solve issues of solid waste in Nairobi, but certainly highlights the necessity of engaging in youth and creative industries in tackling complex issues.