Houses, and road transport networks, are obviously the most erected projects on land surfaces today. With the population of the world estimated to reach 10 billion in the next forty years, more structures and road transport systems will be needed to sustain this growing population. However, the land surfaces where houses and road transport systems are erected upon happens to be the platform of most agricultural activities. Therefore, more houses and road transport systems in the future implies fewer and dwindling land resource for agricultural purposes. Thus, this blog post seeks to proofer a solution which if implemented will not only help escape the looming threat to man’s survival in the future due to scarcity of land for agriculture, but also has the potential to alleviate some of the greatest socio-economic challenges in Nigeria and beyond. How? Through the adoption and construction of subterranean housing and transport system.
The need for subterranean housing and transport system in Nigeria:
With over 194,000 square kilometers of road networks1, one can easily notice the dominance of cars as a means of transport in Africa most populous black nation, Nigeria. The over dependence on cars as a means of transport, poses a great threat to the sustainability and safety of the country as most of these road networks are constructed on lands that were previously farmlands, and on most occasion lead to deforestation. With an ever growing population, it is not out of place for one to believe that Nigeria may soon run out of farmlands to feed its growing population in the nearest future if it continues to expand its road networks. With the dense presence of on land surface buildings in the country, there is a paramount need for the country to adopt subterranean transport and housing system as an alternative means of transport and housing respectively. For example, my local community in eastern part of Nigeria, twelve years ago, had large hectares of land used for commercial farming. Today, as civilization may have it, the community is now fully developed with gigantic buildings and road networks. However, the community now fully depends on food from other parts of the country to sustain its inhabitants − as no farmlands where reserved during its developmental process. Worst still, the food stuffs on most occasions are costly due to the large amount of money spent on transporting them from neighboring states to the community. Hence, most of the low class population go hungry on daily basis owing to the high cost of foodstuffs. Whereas a working subterranean rail network would have helped alleviate this problem, as most of these lands used for road networks would have been used for farming to make food available for the immediate population. Also, if cities in the country are planned in such a way that structures such as large factories, car parks etc. are built underground, and the land surfaces above are used for planting shallow agricultural crops and trees that can help maintain the eco-system and beautify the cities as well. This will certainly help make human settlement safe and sustainable, as factories and buildings where people can work and live are built underground, and the food resources needed to sustain these people are grown on the earth surface above.
Benefits of subterranean transport and housing systems:
Not only would the construction and adoption of subterranean transport and housing systems provide lands for agricultural purposes and increase food productivity in the future, but it would help address some of the most challenging social-economic and environmental issues in Nigeria such as unemployment, high rate of mortality and climate change issues. A recent survey by trading economics showed that the unemployment rate in Nigeria is terrifying with 11.2 million people jobless2. A working subterranean rail network can help provide employments for at least 2% of this unemployed population. Nigeria can borrow a leaf from fellow developing country Brazil that has more than 65 metro stations in Sao Paulo alone, which provides jobs for her citizens and generates a huge sum for the country on daily basis. Construction of subterranean railway system will also help reduce the over dependence on cars as a means of transportation and thus help reduce the high rate of road accidents occurring on major roads in the country. A statistics from the federal road safety commission (FRSC) shows that the number of road traffic accident in Nigeria in 2008 alone was 11,341 as 6,661 life’s were lost in the process3. Nigeria continues to feature in the bottom half of World Health Organization country rankings of road traffic accidents, the country’s 149th ranking in 2009 out of 178 members4 is an attestation to that. Next, the tailpipe emission from over 7.6 million cars in the country constitute great threat to the environmental sustainability of the country. A working subway system will certainly cause commuters to switch to trains which are less expensive and comfortable, and in return will help reduce the use of cars, and eventually, emitted hazardous gases. The second way subterranean transport and housing system can help combat climate change is that, if cities are planned in a way whereby most factories and industries in the urban regions are built underground, plants and trees that will absorb greenhouse gases emitted from these factories are grown on the earth surface above, then the environment will be sustained. But the problem lies in the fact that most farmlands and plantations in the country are located in the rural regions. Whereas in the urban regions, where there are concentration of industries, there are little or no presence of plants and trees.
Collaboration – the key ingredient :
As we have seen, adoption of subterranean transport and housing system in Nigeria has the capacity to make the country safer and more sustainable. But such gigantic project has huge financial and technical demand, and it is unlikely the government will engage in such a project alone. As of the present, there is no single subway train system in the country. Thus, to make this come to light, there is a need for strong public-private partnership where both the government and private sectors can come to terms to see that this project becomes a reality through proper investment. As in the recent, well documented example of such strong public-private partnership in urban transportation; is the Sao Paulo metro line 4 project. The project was achieved through support from banks, concession contracts to private sector and support from Sao Paulo state government. The Japan bank for international cooperation (JBIC) US$304 million loan, US$922 million from Sao Paulo state government and an estimated US$246 million from private sector5 investors made the project a reality. The Nigerian government can borrow a leaf from such strong public-private partnership.
A role youth can play?
Benedict Anderson in his book imagined communities is of the opinion that modern nations arose because of the proliferation of the printing press6. As information dissemination became cheap, communities organized themselves along the lines of race, ethnicity and language. Now with the proliferation of the internet, youth can have their own version of imagined communities circled around common set of beliefs, ambitions and valued system. Youths as administrators of most internet social media platform, blogs and websites have to disseminate information about this idea, we have to let the world know that resources for agriculture are dwindling; and that subterranean housing and transport systems can help provide lands for agriculture, improve travel times and help achieve sustainable development goals in our societies. Youth as future leaders have to adopt this idea. As the architects, civil engineers, and building technologist of tomorrow, we have to tell clients the need for subterranean transport and housing systems in our societies. We have to look for platforms to disseminate this information, and the global ethics network blog forum is one of those platforms,
The Bottom line:
Construction of subterranean housing and transport systems has the potential to alleviate some of the greatest obstacles to achieving the United Nations sustainable development goals in Nigeria and beyond, so it should adopt this future-oriented posture. It should focus on provision of lands for agriculture as a strategy to adapt to the reality of population growth, implemented through strong public-private collaboration; and made robust through active youth participation in connection with information dissemination. The message is clear and concise − a call for Nigeria to adopt subterranean housing and transport systems in her urban planning structure, and a call for other countries that have already adopted this system to expand it, but this time in relation to provision of lands for agriculture.