PHYSICAL PLANNING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT IN POST COVID-19 LAGOS: SOME LESSONS ON INTEGRATION FROM THE STATE OF HESSEN, GERMANY
Jammie A. Titilayo is a lecturer at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos and a Doctoral Researcher at the Graduate School Kritis of Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany).
The concept of integration has to be recognised by African city planners and administrators as an important part of physical planning in 21st century. The city is a living system and, proper planning and integration of its components has physical, health and socio-economic benefits. Integration simply is the process of ensuring smooth, multi-level or spatial connection, whereby infrastructure across different units or spaces in urban centre(s) are efficiently linked and managed to ensure optimum balance and utility.
Lagos is sub- Saharan Africa’s fastest growing city.. Gandy, in his 2006 study, notes that Lagos megacity- which now hosts over 20 million people- has witnessed a significant decline in the quality of its infrastructure and urban environment. This has consequently cast shadows of uncertainty on the realities of its urban development vision (Olajide, 2018). With the highest number of the Covid-19 cases in Nigeria, many Lagos residents struggle to abide by regulatory guidelines put in place to combat the spread of the disease. Notably, keeping a physical distance of at least 2 meters has been a directive many Lagos residents find difficult to observe in public places because of the teeming population fiercely competing for space and opportunities. Across various markets, neighbourhoods and in public transportation, hundreds of people move on with their daily activities with minimal caution, save the infrequent use of face masks.
One may then conclude that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed Lagos as a city struggling with overpopulation. However, Lagos’ population may not necessarily be the problem. Instead, the weak physical planning regulatory mechanisms and poor integration with its adjoining suburbs are the issue. Why do I say this? Across the globe, many cities have successfully contained the spread of the corona virus because of the nature of their planned and integrated physical spaces and urban development dimensions. Tokyo (with over 37 million people) is a notable example, where specific city-wide interventions effectively curtailed the spread of the virus within eight weeks.
Another example is the state of Hessen with major cities including Frankfurt- a multicultural, financial hub and home to the European Central Bank as well as Darmstadt- its neighbouring city famous for science and technology innovations. Hessen has a pronounced manifestation of physical planning complemented by interconnectivity of networks of public transit systems (buses and trams/trains). Many people work in Frankfurt but reside in Darmstadt or in other peri-urban towns- such as Weiterstadt and Langen- located between the two cities because the cost of living in Frankfurt is quite high. Frankfurt and Darmstard, complement each other in terms of population and economic interrelation and these interactions have not diminished due to the pandemic.
In order to reduce the rate of infections and spread of the coronavirus disease, government of Hessen in March and into April banned all social and religious gatherings, restricted activities in public buildings and closed all schools including Day-care centres. There was also ban on gatherings of more than two persons but people were allowed to do shopping for essential goods. These measures were successfully implemented and the rate of infections were successfully brought under control. The planned physical environment where homes and public spaces were integrated and planning and occupancy standards strictly adhered to played a role in curbing the spread of the virus. As at July 1, Frankfurt and Darmstadt have about 2,000 Covid-19 cases. Infection rate has drastically slowed and most restrictions have been lifted. It is relatively easy for people to go out for a walk, for shopping or use the public transport system while observing recommended health guidelines because such facilities are within easy reach.
Lagos and Ogun states share similar socio-economic characteristics and connections like that of Frankfurt and Darmstadt; but the hugely inefficient physical planning and integration strategies in, and between the two cities have made them somewhat dysfunctional and disconnected. Lagos is Nigeria’s multi-cultural centre, commercial capital, most vibrant international city while neighbouring Ogun state hosts a number of tertiary institutions and industries. Many Lagos workers live in Ogun state due to the relatively lower cost of living. Already, Lagos’ adjoining peri-urban corridors like Mowe-Ibafo and Sango Ota have been witnessing a rapid influx of residents who are moving away from the expensive and crowdy life and living patterns that Lagos offers. The failure of Lagos to efficiently link its various urban spaces as well as to tap into the integration potentials presented by locational proximity of its neighbour have proven to be an impediment to physical planning and ordering in the state, and more recently in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic..
Despite the imposition of total lockdown measure in both states by the federal government, the rate of infection continues to rise because people still move around without due caution. Lagos has the highest infection rate in the country, with over 10,000 confirmed cases. While many people cannot practice physical distances due to the fact that they live in crowded apartments located in informal settlements, they are also not able to travel to work safely due to the inefficient public transport system and poor road network. These have also made it difficult to achieve contact tracing of those who may have come in contact with COVID-19 infected cases.
Going forward, it is necessary that the planning and urban development agencies of both Lagos and Ogun states intervene in structuring the peri-urbanisation process. Lagos should, in the post-Covid-19 era, consider revising its physical planning development approaches and take into cognisance the opportunity for physical planning and transport integration presented by Ogun state. The two state governments should collaborate to connect their cities through well integrated transport systems. There is also the possibility of collaboration in public mass housing provision since Ogun state can supply lands needed for such initiative. This will drastically reduce physical planning and traffic burdens on Lagos as population can spread out within the two states. Without this, Lagos state may find it difficult to solve its urban dysfunctionality problems, which the ongoing pandemic has further complicated.
Gandy, M. (2006). Planning, Anti-Planning, and the Infrastructure Crisis Facing Metropolitan Lagos. In: Murray M.J., Myers G.A. (Eds) Cities in Contemporary Africa. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Li, H. Q., Fan, Y. Q., & Yu, M. J. (2018). Deep Shanghai project – A strategy of infrastructure integration for megacities. Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology, 81, 547–567. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tust.2018.08.008
Olajide, O. A., Agunbiade, M. E., & Bishi, H. B. (2018). The realities of Lagos urban development vision on livelihoods of the urban poor. Journal of Urban Management, 7(1), 21–31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jum.2018.03.001
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development or the University of Lagos, Nigeria.