The Lagos State Government land reclamation project on the Lagoon has cast a gloom over the livelihood of more than one hundred families in fishing communities in Oworonsoki axis of Lagos State, members of the communities told Sipanews agency in Lagos, Nigeria.
By Ruth Akinwunmi-King
The nightmare began for the fishing communities in May 2017 when the Nigerian Westminster Dredging and Marine Limited started a land reclamation project on the Lagoon. The land reclamation exercise is a Lagos state government project geared towards tourism development.
In the past, the practice is for fishermen and women to cast their nets around the Oworonsoki axis to get good catches but that has been altered with the commencement of the land reclamation project in the state. Mrs. Temitope Okunnu, an environmentalist cautioned that the project holds dire consequences for both fishermen and fishery resources which inhabit the Lagos lagoon.
“Currently the massive sand filling going on around the lagoon end of Iyana Oworo axis is been done without due consideration for the surrounding coastal areas,” said Okunnu. She added that the consequences of the land reclamation exercise are already noticeable on the surrounding coastal areas as well as on water transportation as many fishermen now finds it difficult to fish there.
A visit to the area by Sipanews confirmed the impact of the reclamation project on artisanal fishing is significant. Visitors to the Lagoon, which hitherto bustle with fishing activities, are welcomed by the sight of empty canoes sitting aimlessly ashore with fishermen discussing with one another in circles; lamenting their newfound status of joblessness.
The sight of some other fishermen pushing their canoes away from the mud generated from the land reclamation project leaves many stories untold. Some other fishermen were seen pushing their canoes away from the area mostly affected by the mud.
The fishermen lamented that silt flowing from the dredging site towards the community has completely blocked the fishing route to the Lagoon thereby leaving them with little or no access to fishing activities.
The fisherman said the situation is complicated by the siltation of the waterways near the site of the land reclamation which has damaged their fishing equipment. Hungbo Whenu, a fisherman told our reporter that “our fishing nets are and traps have been damaged by the mud and our boat engines are not working anymore.”
Unfortunately for the fishermen, the land reclamation exercise is happening at a time when fishing business ought to be at its peak and has adversely affected business. James Awholu emphasised that fishing business has never been this bad during a festive season.
“We are feeling the pinch during this Christmas period because this is when Lagos residents usually besiege here to buy fishes but you can see that this place is almost empty. We have never witnessed this kind of festive season. Painfully, we have families to cater to and this is not good because we must meet our responsibilities as men and women,” said James Awholu, a fisherman.
Another elderly fisherman, Pa Lowe Meije, advised the Lagos State government to always take into consideration how projects such as the ongoing land reclamation project will affect the livelihood of fishing communities before embarking on it.
“We-the Ilajes and Eguns-our lives are all about fishing, we catch good fishes and sell to Lagosians and people filling our waters with sand, thereby blocking our means of livelihood. He explained,” Meije said.
The importance of small-scale fisheries in nutrition, food security, sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation cannot be overemphasised. Therefore, it is important for the Lagos State government, whose goal is to alleviate poverty, to take into cognisance the importance of small scale fisheries in the economic empowerment of artisanal fishing communities.
While it is acknowledged that the Lagos state government is keen on creating enabling environment for the thriving of investments, it is important to state that it cannot do this by leaving the artisanal fishing communities behind; it must seek to accommodate their peculiarities and create an avenue for the thriving of small scale fisheries in Lagos state.