… Says since it has already changed, the only way the Planet could continue to serve its purpose is for humans to adapt
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, has advocated mitigation and adaptation as the most viable global remedies to Climate Change saying the options have become imperative for the survival of the human civilization.
Fashola, who spoke at the LCCI Conference and Exhibition Centre venue of the Nigeria Urban Design Forum 2016, noted that although the aforementioned remedies constitute only mitigation strategies, they were necessary as short term measures adding that the long term solution to Climate change was a change in human behaviour.
The Minister said since the Climate has changed already the mitigation and adaptation options being advocated was a change that was being dictated by the necessity to survive the impact of the phenomenon already being experienced across the globe in one form or the other.
Describing the Planet as “our shield, our roof, our home and our floor”, the Minister declared, “We can only now seek to correct or remedy what is amenable to correction and remedy”, adding that whatever humans got out of the Climate while here would depend on what they were ready to give back to it.
“Whatever the naysayers may have said in the past, the abundance of evidence has clearly demonstrated that not only is the threat of climate change real, its impact is already being felt and human beings are perhaps the most vulnerable”, he said, listing such changes to include diminishing fresh water sources, desertification and loss of arable land and high water levels and flooding.
Others, according to Fashola, are survival induced conflict in the search for land, food, and water, higher cost-of-living arising from volatile rises and crashes in the cost of oil and hydrocarbons as sources of energy for fuel, heating, lighting and production of goods and services. He warned, “The human civilization faces a turbulent survival”.
Fashola noted that changes being experienced in the country already include“erosion of coastal waterfronts, loss of property and lives as a result of flooding, loss of grazing land as a result of desert encroachment, diminution of Lake Chad, silting of many rivers, requiring humongous capital outlay to re-dredge and maintain them to serve their sustenance purpose of transport and agriculture, clashes between herdsmen and communities, power outages, high cost of fuel, electricity and drinking water, etc”.
Citing the multi-billion Naira Eko Atlantic City Project on Victoria Island as an example of attempts “to correct or remedy what is amenable to correction and remedy”, Fashola said adaptation would involve dredging of silted waterways, reclamation and shoreline protection, regeneration of grazing reserves by re-planting grass, dredging of the River Niger and other water bodies and cleaning up of the Niger Delta among many other measures.
According to the Minister, to achieve the required objective of adaptation and mitigation, “The way we use land, the way we use electricity, the way we use petrol, the way we use water, the way we use transport facilities and the way we do many other things that we took for granted now demand a rethink and adaptation”.
Emphasizing the need to urgently embrace the mitigation and adaptation strategies, Fashola declared, “This is because our Planet has changed; and for it to serve us, we must adapt. The Planet is our shield, our roof, our home and our floor. It will remain but we will go”.
On how to apply the strategies to use of land, the Minister, who described land as
“the foundation for most if not all of human development”, argued that because of the increasing and competing demand on it for businesses, factories, roads for transport, rail lines for transport, airports for transport and for housing, people may be forced to reduce the acreage they would otherwise occupy for housing or other investments in order to reduce expenditure on property tax.
“Many years ago, how many of us ever thought of property tax in Nigeria, and the fact that we may have to pay yearly or periodically beyond ground rent, for the acreage we occupy in terms of square metre”, the Minister asked adding that in the advent of diminishing oil resources, and the resort of states to taxes, one would think twice about the size of land one buys, the size of house one builds and whether or not one need all that space because it would now affect how much of one’s income the state would take.
He also noted that in the past, not many people paid attention to the choice of external finish of their homes as to whether it would require regular painting or not, in designing their houses adding, “At this time, when water, electricity, transport and property taxes are now competing for our incomes, will rational minds not pay attention to building and finishing with external materials that require little or no maintenance in order to reduce cost?”
The Minister, who noted that in many parts of Nigeria today it is commonplace to see houses built without windows and therefore no access to sunlight, said although these occurrences were common with some of the nation’s “very vulnerable people”, many of whom live in unplanned settlements called slums, the time to rethink installing a window in such houses was now; and the time to ensure that no such houses (even if unplanned) were built without windows was now.
The Minister illustrated further, ”Without sunlight, even though the tariff of such people remains unchanged at N4/KWh, the reality is that all day and all night there must be an electric bulb on in such a home to enable the most basic function of movement to take place.If we compare this with an R2 consumer, whose Tariff ranges between N21.30 andN21.80/KWh, but who has windows and does not need a lightbulb till about 7 PM, it means that he uses no energy for at least 12 hours from 7 AM to 7 PM as against the poor low tariff consumer who, because of a design flaw, needs to keep his light bulb on”.
Noting that in the aforementioned illustration, the consumer living in the house without windows would pay more for energy than the R2 consumer, Fashola pointed out that this was the reason that more people and organizations across the world now preferred building with more glass, to reduce energy demand in offices. “Our urban designs must adapt and adopt”, he said.
He declared, “Our houses must have not only bigger windows, their design must focus on the source of sunlight and the direction of wind to ensure that we can cool our homes using wind and rely less on fans and air conditioning during the day, but in addition we can function without switching on electric bulbs during the day; except when the weather is bad”.
The Minister argued that because the demand for water always meant a demand for power, “to produce and pump water, and by extension, demand for gas, petrol or diesel, and by extension an expenditure in costs”, what should be recommended in the choice of fitting in any modern house should be “modern taps that are hydraulic and dispense only the needed amount of water, toilet systems which are now in the market that have dual flushing buttons, to dispense water for flushing only our urine in small quantity, or our bowel work in large quantity”.
Fashola, who said there was need for designs to embrace energy saving technology like sensors that automatically switch off power when not in use and low energy consuming lightbulbs, added, “All of these must now be standard practice in architecture and urban design classrooms and seminars”, pointing out that manufacturers of electronic appliances like televisions and computers were now producing such light bulbs with standby power saving mode as standard supply.
On what to change in the use of land in order to better manage and cope with incidents of flooding, the Minister noted that the difference between developed and developing countries was the urban planning and land-use, which, according to him, explains the difference in severity between the two when disasters occur.
He explained further, “In the last few years there were two major disasters, one in Haiti and the other in Japan. The damage by flooding was more severe in Haiti than Japan. Many experts have attributed this largely to the poor urban planning in Haiti.”
“In developing nations where planning is sub-optimal, it is difficult to find straight roads, which are a common feature in more developed nations. One of the reasons is that in developing nations, the land for personal use is first apportioned before the land for public use, like roads, is apportioned. The result is that roads are built around existing buildings, and are therefore not straight”.
“We must change this and prioritize the public interest over private interests. One good reason to do so is that when unexpected flooding occurs, floor water discharge is not efficient, it goes round curves, leaps out at great pressure and speed and causes severe damage to homes and other economic assets. In the nations where planning is more effective, the road is first set out, before personal land is apportioned. The result is a grid-like layout, with straight roads and straight drains that discharge water more efficiently. We must adopt this practice in our urban planning and design,” he said.
Describing planning and conservation as “the heart and soul of adaptation”, Fashola declared, “Waste not want not; because what is wasted, whether water, whether fuel, whether land, will never be enough” pointing out that the list of what to do to improve our conservation and energy efficiency was not exhausted and that and that those who desire to learn more could go to the Internet and search for “http//energy4me.org”.
On how the nation’s urban design could impact its national housing policy, Fashola, who noted that there is a common agreement on the need to increase the supply of housing for the growing population, added, however, that what has not been agreed upon was the type of house that would be acceptable to at least a majority of those who could not build for themselves.
“We have had a few housing initiatives but they have not been sustained partly because the design has always changed, the specifications have varied, it has been difficult to build them en-masse because production cannot be automated or industrialized for anything that is not uniform”, the Minister said pointing out that automobiles were more complex to manufacture than houses while mass production had been possible “because of standardization; length, chassis design, wheel size, battery size etc”.
Citing companies like Dunlop, Bosch, Toyota and others who have standardized their products for mass production, Fashola who said that the nation must adopt such approach in its Housing “if we are to deliver en-masse and on a sustainable basis”, expressed joy that work has started on standardization of housing design in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in collaboration “with some private sector volunteers to develop a National Housing Design acceptable to different cultural settings of Nigeria on a general basis”.
“In this way, we can standardize many parts, encourage people to invest in moulds and accelerate mass production”, the Minister said, adding that with the standardization of doors, fittings, iron rods, cable and other accessories, the government hoped to create a strong incentive for small and medium enterprises to invest and manufacture the component parts. “This is the way we think design can influence the diversification of our economy and accelerate the delivery of Housing”, he added.
The Minister commended the organisers of the Forum, including the immediate past Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development in Lagos State, Mr Toyin Ayinde, for providing him a rare public platform to speak about climate change and its impact, what the Federal Government is doing with regards to achieving energy efficiency and also highlighting opportunities economic benefits for the entrepreneurially minded.
TO THE HON. MINISTER