Monday, 31 July 2017

Anambra laments devastating effect of flood, erosion menace

Image result for pictures of erosion and flood sites in Anambra

By Okechukwu Onuegbu

The omission of Anambra State name from the official list of 16 states to benefit from the N1.6 billion flood intervention fund by the federal government has raised concern among its citizenry owing to its severity of flood and erosion related crisis.
Available records show that the state’s landmass is severely threatened by flood and gullies with a record of over 1000 gully cases within its 179 communities such as Awka, Oko, Nanka, Ebenebe, Obosi and others, all begging for urgent attention.

Little wonder, the state government recently raised alarm over the intensity of the erosion menace in parts of the state. Governor Willie Obiano, who got frustrated over the growing number of gully erosion sites across the state begged the federal government to declare a state of emergency on the erosion menace in the state.

Obiano, who made the pledge during an inspection of erosion site along MINAJ Road at Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area of the state, climaxed that “We have more than 782 erosion sites in Anambra State and these pose serious threats to the lives and property of the communities concerned. As a state, we cannot handle these challenges alone and still carry on with other responsibilities,” he said.
A week earlier, the state’s Commissioner for Environment, Beautification and Ecology, Dr Romanus Ejikeme, declared that about 600 erosion sites were under serious threat and that the resources available to the state government were not enough to tackle the erosion crisis.

“We have more than 600 active erosion sites and this is not exhaustive because we have written about 181 communities to update us with the number of erosion sites in their neighbourhood,” Ejikeme confessed.

According to him, Governor Obiano had approved palliative works in about 10 erosion sites across the state namely, Ebenebe, Agwu-Achi, Nkwelle Ezunaka, Akpata, Ukpo, Nnewi Ichi, Utuh and Iheakuba-Amichi.

“The one at Ekwueme Square Road in Awka is massive and beyond what the state can handle because it will cost hundreds of millions naira” the Commissioner added, while appealing for urgent assistance from the federal government and international development finance institutions like the World Bank.

Speaker, Anambra State House of Assembly, Barr Rita Maduagwu, argued recently that Anambra state should have been ranked second in the ‘danger list’ of erosion ravaged states by the federal government and, as such, given priority attention in the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Intervention initiative.

Maduagwu, while reacting to the recent release of N1.6 billion to fifteen states by the Acting President Yemi Osibanjo, posited that recent flood incidents in the state have rendered millions of Anambra residents homeless and destroyed valuable properties most of which are yet to be reconstructed hence “the need for the federal government’s flood intervention fund” to Anambra State to assist flood victims in the state.

While the state government has intensified its cry for urgent assistance from the federal government and other international institutions, our recent investigations reveal more troubling developments around the state.

Agulu-Nanka and surrounding environments investigation shows that residents of Agulu-Nanka, Ekwulobia, Oko and other communities with ravaging gully erosion sites in parts of the areas are literally living on the edge of the precipice. It was also learnt that life in the erosion affected communities is a nightmare during both rainy and dry seasons.

According to our sources, each gully incident in those areas is usually accompanied by landslide and destruction that often results in tales of woes and tears amongst the residents. Now and then, they recount loses ranging from damaged farm lands, ancestral landed property, buildings and economic trees, among others.

Chief Gilbert Eze, a businessman and resident of Agulu-Nanka, told that erosion menace has unleashed untold hardship on the people of the area due to unquantifiable losses. “We want the government to come, study and document the loses suffered by erosion victims in terms of disruption of social life, psychological and economic impacts on their lives with a view to attracting the state and federal governments in finding a lasting solution to the Agulu-Nanka erosion ravaged areas,” he appealed.

Onitsha and its environs like Ogbaru, Idemili North and South LGAs

Also, residents of Onitsha are counting their loses in the wake of recent flood mayhems in hearts of the city. Following a heavy downpour last weekend, parts of the city, including the Onitsha International Electronics Market, were submerged, during which the flood washed up, among other pieces of garbage, a decomposing corpse in a shallow gutter inside the market.

Financial Secretary of the Market, Onyeka Azubike, disclosed that traders were lamenting the losses they incurred due to the devastating effect of the flood. According to him, the market was flooded because the drainage channel along the Onitsha/Asaba overflowed its bank while the drainage system that passes through the market was blocked. “The effect is that whenever it rains, our market turns into a mini lake and forces us out of our shops.”

Speaking also, a trader in the market, Engr Emeka Monanu maintained that, “since 2013, this illegal blockage structure has been here and we have written to the Federal Emergency Road Management Agency (FERMA) to come to our rescue but to no avail. We have lost over N500 million worth of wares to that.”

The President General, Odume Obosi Central Landlords Association and Obosi Urban Landlords Association, Chief Chudi Nwokediuko, recently disclosed that the community had invested more than N2 million to address the erosion menace which had killed a person and collapsed three buildings in the area. Residents of other parts of the commercial city have equally spent barying sums of money to salvage their properties and environment from the flood menace.

Awka, the Anambra State capital

In Awka, the state capital, roads are usually impassable whenever it rains as flood ravages virtually the whole town, adversely affecting its socioeconomic activities and destabilises all human and natural systems there. The extent of damage is much as it reportedly cripples nearly the whole transportation system and other human activities.

Some of the places where flooding usually wreaks havoc in Awka include Nwakpadolu Housing Estate, the area behind Government House/Agu-Awka, Nnamdi Azikiwe University permanent and temporary sites, Iyiagu Estate/Abakaliki Road, Amenyi/Zik’s Avenue, the inner roads in inland Awka such as Umueri, Omuko, Umuogbu, Amikwo (Obunagu road) and several quarters.

Residents of Iyiagu and Nwakpadolu estates recently wrote to the Anambra State government, lamenting that they have lost billions of naira worth properties and even human lives to the floods this year. The Iyiagu Estate residents, in a letter to the state government, reported enormous damages the recent floods caused in their neighbourhood as a result of the uncompleted Iyiagu drainage channel.

In their two paged petition entitled, “The uncompleted Iyiagu flood channel has damaged N400 million investments in Anambra State, signed by Dr Chike Amobi, the residents revealed that recent floods submerged buildings of various types in the area.

The residents, who recalled that they had severally written letters and electronic mails (E-mail) to the Anambra State government to forestall the disaster all in futility, attributed their travail to the uncompleted Iyiagu flood drainage channel designed to direct the flood water from Awka and its environs into a body of natural water. “For unknown reasons, the project was abruptly and precariously terminated at a point where it is directly pointed to our fences. This now causes millions of gallons of flood water to be unfetteredly dumped onto our premises every time it rains,” the petition read.

Chief Joshua Nwakpadolu of Nwakpadolu Estate, in a recent interview with raised alarm over the flood menace saying, “We have been experiencing this since the construction of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church road. The gutter that came down through the road was channeled to the stream behind my building. As a result, the flood always collides with the stream while coming with waste and both direct the force towards my building.

“My fear is that the electric transformer we have may electrocute someone during flooding. We are still safe now just because there is always no light on the transformer whenever it rains and the compound becomes flooded. I am calling on the government to come to our rescue by replacing the culvert with abridge and properly channeling the flood to the stream.”

To Chief Ifeanyi Ogene, an electronic dealer who was forced to re-construct his shop located along Zik’s Avenue in Awka recently to prevent flood water from spilling into it, the battle hasn’t been won yet. He recounted his experience thus, “As you can see, this is why we are constructing steps to stop the flood from flowing into our shops. But the more you construct, the more the flood will penetrate into our building especially when it rains heavily. There had been instances where it carried people who dared to work on it. It is usually knee-deep and most times, covers the whole road. We are begging our government to come to our help.”

On why these rampant cases of flood in Awka, Hon Lawrence Ezeudu, the Chairman, Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Environment, Beautification and Ecology, blamed builders and house owners, who he claimed, had built on swampy areas and water channels.

According to Ezeudu, people mostly affected by flooding are those occupying water areas “because there is nowhere the water will not interfere with them even after several years of building, no matter how the houses were erected. People should stop building on water channels and swampy areas. It is advisable you build only above sea level.”

He, however, noted that the Assembly stepped up the 2017 Appropriation Bill to checkmate flood related issues in the state, adding that the state government would not relent in making law to help cushion its impact.

A geographer and town planning aficionado, Onyibor Obuekwe, on his part, recalled the reign of then Wing Commander Rufa’i Garba who, as Military Administrator of Anambra State, sought to frontally confront the flood problem in the state capital. He said that the young Air force officer invited international specialist companies to study and proffer solutions to the flood problem in Awka town during which several proposals were submitted to his office by different specialists but nothing was heard from these specialists up till Garba’s departure.

He noted that the undulating terrain of Awka is not insurmountable if the government and residents of the town could work together. “The encroachment into and reclamation of parts of the natural inland drainage basins like the Udide water body in Amikwo and Ovbiamazu stream are the major causes of flooding in Awka. Other causes of it are high-pitch roofs of buildings which, though aesthetically appealing, add to the flood problem because high gradient of such roofs, rainwater cascades from them with great alacrity and turn into torrents of water that flow onto the streets and add to the flood,” he submitted.

He added that, with their volume and energy, they create ravines, head-ward erosion and potholes. The geographer further recommended the trapping and channeling of all the flood and run-offs from the streets, homes and drainages into the Obibia and Ovbiamazu streams as well as the grassing of premises such that water can better percolate more quickly after each rain.

“This is different from the current vogue where people concrete their premises resulting in often voluminous run offs onto the streets thus adding to the floods from people’s premises. It is also necessary to back up coercive instrument by way of legislation to complement enlightenment and suasion measures to get the Awka, Anambra and entire populace to adopt more decent and environment-friendly refuse disposal habit,” he added.

While citing that city of Minna, capital of Niger State addressed its flooding problem by developing very wide and deep-paved flood channels throughout the entire city, Obuekwe postulates “As a matter of fact, much of the channels followed the natural course of flow of flood water in the city with the channels empting the flood into the natural water bodies-rivers in and around Minna.”



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