Eko Atlantic City: Marine Life Habitat Under Threat

THE GUARDIAN Newspaper- Tunde Akingbade

THE habitat of a fish like marine organism known as lancelets, which has assisted scientists all over the world in studies on evolution and the creation of the earth, is being destroyed at the project site of the Eko Atlantic city, The Guardian investigation has revealed

The lancelets, which are also known as amphioxi, are also sources of food to some people and their animals.

Following up its report on November 6, 2011 on the Eko Atlantic City project, The Guardian learnt that lancelets, precious marine organism, are being wiped out in the area despite its social, economic and scientific significance.

Curiously some Nigerian scientists who ought to be critically observing trends at the site, and guiding the governments and developers on such project, prefer to keep mum over the impact of the massive construction work going on in Lagos and West African coastal region — out of fear of a possible repercussion.

Some of the scientists, who, however, sought anonymity, affirmed that age-long scientific findings have shown that lancelets (Branchiostoma nigerianse) is being decimated by the construction work going on in Eko Atlantic City site.

Two renowned world scientists, M.B Hill and J.E. Webb had studied “The Ecology of Lagos Lagoon and the life history of Branchiostoma Nigeriense (Lancelet) between 1953 to 1955.

During the period, Hill and Webb carried out systematic collections of both larvae and adults of lancelets and studied their life cycle and rate of growth.

The result showed that “Lancelets in the brackish lagoons in Lagos are derived animally from marine populations outside the harbor”

According to the study published in the Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences, “the larvae enter brackish water, where the salinity is not lower than 13 parts per thousand in autumn, metamorphose at the end of December and give rise to adults, which colonise the sand deposits of the Lagoons.”

Hill and Webb noted that the adults reach maturity in the spring, but die shortly afterward when the salinity of the water falls below the threshold value for survival and that the marine populations have an animal cycle, spanning August to October or November each year.

Experts believe that they are made up of about 22 species of fish-like marine organisms, which are also called chordates. They are found in temperate and tropical seas and are half buried in the sand. It is the sand in the lagoon and beach area that are being destroyed for the emergence of the Eko Atlantic City, which is expected to be about eight kilometres.

Scientists said that the lancelets are known to be modern day representatives of an organism known as Subphyhim.

Geologists, who spoke to The Guardian said lancelets are important objects of study in Zoology because they are indicators of the origin of vertebrates. It is believed that although they split from vertebrate millions of years ago, their genomes have materials that give scientists hint about evolution and how they are adapting to environment.

Lancelets are between two inches and 2.8 inches long. Their bodies are translucent and they have no paired fins or limbs. They have what experts described as not-well-developed tail-fin.

Regrettably, the lancelets are not good swimmers and consequently they can be massively and easily destroyed during construction on sites where Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has not properly taken them into consideration.

Although the proponents of the Eko Atlantic City said that they had done a good impact study, critics of the project insist that the study did not also take into account some issues in the biological sciences such as the case of the lancelets.

The lancelets are very strange marine’s organisms because they have no respiratory system.

They are known to breathe through their skin. Scientists said that Lancelets do not have a brain, heart, and blood cells too. And unlike vertebrates the excretory system consists of “kidney” in segments.

Prof. A.M.A. Rahaman, renowned hard rock Geologist, Department of Geology, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, said he is not pleased with the destruction of the habitat of the lancelets.

Similarly, Prof. Francis Adesina, Climate Change expert, Department of Geography, also of OAU, Ile Ife and one of Nigeria’s negotiators at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also raised an alarm over the construction work going on at the Eko Atlantic City in Lagos.

A desina said in Abuja during the Federal Ministry of Environment and Special Climate Change Unit’s meeting on the last Conference of Parties’ meeting in Durban, South Africa, that although the Lagos State government, executors of the Atlantic City project, has been doing a lot to in the area of channelisation of rivers and water courses to combat flooding in the past few years, he feared that sea level rise as a result of climate change will affect new estates that are being constructed along the coastal areas without proper guidelines.

The expert observed that inflow of water from the sea, which was blocked; and the outflow of water from Ogun River, which was also prevented from entering the sea as a result of urban development, was responsible for last year’s massive flooding that caused displacements and deaths in some parts of Lagos.

On Eko Atlantic City, Adesina said he wonders whether people would indeed live in the estate because of threat of rise of sea level in future when the city is ready, stressing that the problem in Lagos is extremely unpredictable.

Experts are also worried that the East and West Mole constructed by the British, which sparked off the erosion rate at the Bar Beach, Victoria Island, is also the one being used in the construction of the new city.

The Royal Haskoning, a Dutch company which is also involved in the rehabilitation project on the East and West moles of the Lagos Harbor, had noted in its report on the project that as early as 2001, it delivered designs for the much-needed reconstruction of these moles, but sadly the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) postponed implementation of works until 2008-2009.”

It was gathered that the same company was again contracted to review the design.

When the Eko Atlantic Project began, the Royal Haskoning somehow got involved because the new city is to be constructed on the reclaimed land adjacent to the East Mole.

The Mole, which was constructed by the British colonial government to stabilise the Apapa Port, is going to serve as one of the new city’s revetment.

One of the messages circulated on the project by Mr Claartje Hoyng of Coastal and Rivers Rotterdam, the Project Manager at the site, states, “it is very exciting to work at the interface between the mole rehabilitation and Eko City projects. “

Hoyng said that, “it means that our design has to bring together various objectives, and that we have to work against the clock,” adding that every day, tons of rocks are being trucked down the two km mole for the construction of the new city’s Atlantic sea wall. “

He continued; ‘As a revetment, the East Mole will have to be integrated into this new defence structure. And when Eko City nears completion, two sluices will be built into the mole, for recreational boating. These will add a Dutch touch to it.”

He added that “since 2001, more than 6m of sand accreted on the west side of this mole. The greatest challenges here are to optimize the design while reconstruction is already on-going, and to deal with the long-swell wave conditions.

The Guardian sent questions through email to Hoyng to inquire if he was aware of the loss of biodiversity and the natural forces including two submarine canyons under the Atlantic Ocean not far away from the area where the new city is being constructed, and if these are different from what they have in European areas compared with West Africa as reported on November 6, 2011 in this paper.

As at press time two weeks after the request, Hoyng is yet to answer the questions.


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