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Cities race against nature and effects

Many of us born and bred in the locality that was under the Abuja Native Authority and are at least beyond 50 years witnessed the…

Many of us born and bred in the locality that was under the Abuja Native Authority and are at least beyond 50 years witnessed the landscape that previously constituted the entire area covering the Federal Capital City and its environs before the commencement of the city’s construction activities.

An incident that occurred along old Wuse to Nyanya road was narrated by one of the pioneer FCDA staff, a surveyor. While going to site one afternoon some time in 1979 when the Nyanya Labour Camp was being constructed, their vehicle broke down in the jungle. A lion came out groaning and started circulating their vehicle while they sat stiff inside. When it could not have its way, it walked away and returned to where it came from. To the occupants of the vehicle, the period was like eternity. Those were the types of wildlife that existed in the erstwhile wilderness of the FCT.

It is a fact that with the modern technological advancement, man is now able to build new cities from the wilderness with innovative modern infrastructure such that were never witnessed before from the beginning of creation. It is also a fact that no space on earth is a vacuum; something must have been occupying the space and must have given way before the modern developments could be in place.

In our elementary sciences we were taught the law of matter; that matter can never be destroyed, but be transformed from one state to another. This is the same with the transformations experienced with our natural landscapes. The former Guinea Savanna Forest in the FCT is now being replaced with an expanse surface paving and urban development, as our favourite, after the removal of the entire vegetative cover.

In essence, humanity is rejecting the gift bequeathed by nature. The adverse consequences are now here, and nature is fighting back.

Environmentalists very keen in the observation of the unfolding weather phenomenon would now be making various interpretations on the extraordinary circumstances. These are annual temperature ranges, usually between 21°Cand 32°C, but now reaching up to 45°C within the sub region, in a phenomenon globally known as el-Niño. It has different effects in different parts of the world: droughts, floods, crop failures and looming food shortages. The competition of supremacy between the extreme daily temperatures and the cloudy conditions at the approach of the evening rains has its implications as witnessed presently in the Abuja sub region. In the preparations to the coming of the rains this year there were very strong and catastrophic winds and rainstorms that created havocs to buildings and very expensive installations.

In the other sectors, there were tragic reports by poultry farmers of heavy nocturnal mortalities of birds due to extreme temperatures witnessed in the nights this year more than any other before.  To the human population, according to a study published in Nature, it was estimated that 30 per cent of the world population was already exposed to a combination of heat and humidity that exceeded what was safe for the human body at least 20 days a year.

If the trend of urbanisation continues unabated, we would obviously increase more of these days each subsequent year, which means continuous reduction of safety for the human body. The ultimate consequence is human extinction, just as many species have already gone. Otherwise, we would have to reduce the causes of the phenomenon, which include the continuous growth and expansions of our cities. We brag about our achievement for the development of new cities as the pride of our nation, the consequences are now catching on with us.

If we must build cities, we must not fail in the provision of mitigation measures against weather vagaries. Against this background, the Abuja Master Plan recognises the importance of its greening in order to ensure ecological balance and curb the threat posed by global warming as is now being discussed. These include tree plantings along the streets and stream lines to deliberate policy of preservation of natural forests, creation of artificial parks for recreation and the planting of trees in all premises within the city.

One positive effect of these measures as noticed at the beginning of this year’s rainy season was the relative safety of buildings and infrastructure during rainstorms characterised by strong winds. On the contrary, it ravaged houses and other public and private installations in the city’s suburbs and other surrounding urban areas within and outside the FCT.