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Koolhaas' city of the future is a nightmare


I have just received the University of Lagos students' copy of the AJ (13.11.03) with the article by Martin Pawley drawing attention to the knock-on effect of power failures.

In Nigeria, we know about these since the National Electric Power Authority supply is what the local media refer to as 'epileptic'. We live and work in Lagos State, where some areas have been without a supply for several months. Our own offices in Somolu and on Lagos Island have cuts on a daily basis, which means that we go onto standby power with a UPS system in order to maintain our PCs and Plotters.We are among the lucky ones able to afford generators and the fuel to run them.

We keep a log of 'generator hours' and, even with care, our Lagos Island engine ran for 116 hours during November - and that was a good month.As I write we have had piped water for only three days during the past four weeks. We have never had a sewage system and rely on individual septic tanks and soakaway pits where the water table is sometimes very near the surface.

Most people cannot afford standby power so the forests continue to disappear as wood is required for cooking stoves. All Nigerians are managers - since they manage to survive these conditions and they will have to continue to do so since the infrastructure of Lagos, with a current population of about 12 million, expected to rise to 24 million within the next 10 years, has little or no chance of catching up with basic requirements.

But beware - Rem Koolhaas, after a research period in Lagos, has announced that all cities will be like Lagos in the not too distant future and describes ours as being at the forefront of globalising modernity. 'Lagos is not catching up. Rather, we may be catching up with Lagos, ' he said.

As we regard Lagos as a neverending nightmare for Lagosians, we would suggest that Britain must begin to realise that by commercialising all infrastructural services and insisting on the cheapest, tomorrow's problems are being created.

Certainly, if we ever retire to Europe we shall try to locate in the middle of a field with a standby generator, borehole and satellite dish!

John Godwin, Lagos

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