Mega City, Meager Apartments; how air pollution is ruining our children future

By Ajala Sodiq

At the heart of Lagos mainland are these same height storey buildings, comprising residential apartments, shops and warehouses with toilets, bathrooms and passages, pressured to fit the limited plot of land.

Gone are the days of spatial cue and awareness. Where houses breathe peace and inform serenity. Where cars are securely parked in compounds, and having enough space to occupy a party of 30-50 people in ceremonial regalia.

The housing sector in Lagos State is fast revolutionising into a parochial set-up. Unlike in the far past, buildings are erected with substandard materials; apartments are now cut into smaller sizes with facilities made with inferior materials. Yet, these houses are very expensive.

“Houses back then are obviously stronger, materials are of better quality and the economy was better”, Elder Eree explained, “a room here in Apapa road in 1970 was 5 naira; in 1980, it was about 20 to 25 naira; in the 90s, it was 1000 naira; in the year 2000, it was between 2,000 and 3,000 naira. If you don’t have like 5,000 naira to 7,000 naira, you can’t get a room to rent now.”

With an increasing population of 21million, Lagos residents are not oblivious to the increasing need for residential apartments. The 999.6 square kilometres land space is almost occupied with residential and industrial buildings that there are creeps into the banks of the 171.68 square kilometres water areas which sprawl on the Ozumba Mbadiwe and Ahmadu Bello ways of Victoria Island.

Now than ever before, every erected building is solely fashioned to double or triple the cost of production within the first 5 years. Housing developers term this “the real deal”. The model is simply an investment and very rampant in the Mainlands.

Housing developers boldly approach property owners, in most cases, the sons and, or daughters of the owners, who are likely to be late, purchase the property or simply make a deal to rebuild and rent out the apartment for some time, say, 25 or 30 years, depending on the contract.
Basically, what both parties stand to gain, which may differ is that the developers get their return on investment within the agreed time while the inheritors own their building ever after.

However, developers want to make as high a profit as possible, so they reduce the quality of building materials, boycott due diligence and slice room sizes below standard. According to a civil engineering firm, a standard size of bedroom may range from 3000mm (3m) (10ft) by 3600mm (3.6m) (12ft) to 4200mm (4.2m) (14ft) by 4800mm (4.8m) (16ft). Most developers-made houses are obviously reduced in sizes, a typical example is a room-sized, 2500mm (2.5m) (8ft) by 3000mm (3m) (10ft) which is totally unacceptable by best practice.

In order to evade the lasting traffic on Ikorodu and Badagry roads, people acquire these apartments to reduce travel time and transport cost to their respective workplaces. Living in less ventilated bedrooms with partial privacy gradually became the norm for those who could afford it.

Only in May 2017, there were two cases of generator fume deaths in Lagos, adding a couple others that happened in past years and recently in Kogi, Delta and Rivers States. With women and children as chief victims, only the obnoxious scent of their decaying carcass drew neighbours’ attention.

Air stains like smoke, soot and fumes from the vehicle and generator exhaust, burning firewood and waste are calculated in particulate matter (PM), based on their degree in air composition. These distort the quality of air. PM are of two types, the PM 10 and PM 2.5, the latter contains particles of diameter 2.5 microns (µ), so small that the nostrils hair can’t trap so it penetrates deeper in lungs, travels into the bloodstream and causes great havoc to the body. A report published in the European Respiratory Journal revealed that 14% of chronic childhood asthma cases are attributed to traffic pollution. When an adult feels tightened chest, it could be a symptom of an asthma attack.

The nature conservancy study reported that there exists an average of 7% to 24% reduction of PM in areas of landscaping and trees. Lagos has landscapes on some of its major roads, but it will be healthier to have more in closely packed residents.

According to UNICEF, air pollution cause pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory infections and diseases in children. This scientific research reveals that the effects are more in growing children as it distorts brain development causing reduced verbal and nonverbal intelligence quotient, memory, low test scores and other alters in neurological behavioural patterns like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression, putting children as disadvantaged among their peers.

17.5 million Babies in West and Central Africa live in areas where there is a high chance of air pollution. However, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limit is 10-micron grams per cubic meter.

Picture the less ventilated apartments people live in, with generating sets on their balconies. Picture kids walking to school amidst the plumes from public buses, “Okada” and tricycle exhausts. Picture the guys frying doughnuts and puff puffs in the bus-stops, and the woman selling “akara” as she backed her eight months old baby. The problem arises from many perspectives.

Furthermore, the report added that these problems can be harnessed by reducing air pollution, children exposure to pollution and improving children overall health.
Of which, the simple steps to achieve this is to develop housing facilities with adequate ventilation and space, improved public transportation and pollution control.

Every week, children spend 40 hours in outside their homes, in schools and spend 128 hours at home, to kick away air pollution from affecting them, our homes must be air pollution free.





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