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Why Flood and Erosion Control Can’t Wait – By Haruna Manu Isah

By Haruna Manu Isah, Kaduna, Nigeria – October 27, 2011 – “ The two great challenges of the 21st century, fighting world poverty and tackling climate change, must be tackled as an integrated whole by a united world”…Nicholas Stern(2009)

The 8th National Council on Environment (NCE) conference took place on the 26th -28th September 2011 at the yar’adua indoor sports Hall, kaduna. The theme of this year’s NCE’s meeting was ‘Transforming the Nigerian Environment’. This theme couldn’t have been more apt. The annual event wasn’t immune from the sluggishness typical of a program being organized by a government agency. As someone rightly observed that programs must be delayed especially if a Minister was being expected. Despite the initial hiccups due to ‘African’ culture of not keeping to time, but the four day event did take place at the end of the day, and it proved to be worthwhile. The event, the National Council of Environment meeting ought to be an annual ritual, but as the minister rightly lamented that the 7th meeting took place somewhere in Enugu in 2007 and four years later the 8th was just being held in the premier city of Kaduna. This goes to show to a large extent how inconsistent things are in Nigeria. It is by default, a gathering of all juggernauts of the Environment sector to brainstorm across board issues that are germane to the Nigerian state of environment. Heads of state Environment Ministries, Agencies, the private sector, Academia, development partners and MDAs relevant to the sector were all in attendance with a view to transforming the Nigerian Environmental landscape, being the theme.  Indeed, it was a feast of reasons as scholars and resource persons took their turn to dissect issues ranging from climate change, drought and Desertification, erosion and flooding, EIA, pollution and environmental health, among others.

     As a participant, yours sincerely agreed largely with papers presented and summations therein, like the need for concerted efforts to mitigate the negative effects of climate change which is today a reality. One equally agreed with the dangers of environmental pollution, drought and desertification and deforestation etc. There is also a total understanding about the magnitude of flood and erosion, but I differ, though tangentially with the way to go about it.

The report of the technical session indicates that there is hardly any state in the country that does not have one form of flood or erosion problem or the other. About two-third of the 36 states presented memos on one flood disaster or the other and hence the report states…. ”the concerted effort of the affected state governments to combat flood/erosion in their state capitals and other towns in which despite huge amount of money spent, the problem has remained unsolved” .In view of this the council urges “federal government to as a matter of urgency  intervene in solving flood and erosion problems in those affected states as presented….”. To state a fact that was only observable at the venue of the meeting, the stakeholders most especially the government functionaries present seemed not to have appreciated the catastrophic effects of flood and erosion in the country, hence the display of unparallel disinterest in issues of flood and erosion control/management.

 A glimpse through the speech of the Honorable minister of Environment, Hajia Hadiza Mailafiya, one can only appreciate a single effort of the ministry towards addressing the hydra-headed problem of erosion and flooding in the country.  The minister states “the ministry has recently established Flood Early Warning System (FEWS), which is a web-based system for the forecast of possible devastating flood event in the country”. The minister further states that “it has also installed Automated Flood Early Warning Equipment in Ogun-Osun river basin”. And in the area of erosion control, contracts have probably been given to reclaim land destroyed by erosion in states like Adamawa,Bauchi, Anambra, imo, jigawa ogun and kwara . The fact is, flood and erosion control can’t wait until FEWS is installed across the 36 states because of so many reasons. Flood and erosion control devoid of public participation will not be sustainable even with FEWS equipment in place. This has been the bane of erosion control projects in the country. And true, nobody tabled this component for deliberation throughout the conference and did not even feature in the technical reports.

To begin with, a flood is described as an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land that naturally not covered by water. The country has faced so many flood related hazards largely due to increase rain in recent time and under-utilization of dams in some parts of the country. In 1999, about 300,000 people were displaced by flood in Niger state, and an estimated 39 people lost their lives due to flood disaster that ravaged hundredths communities and villages. Crops and animals worth millions of Naira were destroyed. The first of its kind in thirty years! And just last year, 2010, about 2 million people, half of the population of jigawa state were displaced when authorities at Tiga and challawa dams opened floodgates of these two dams from the neighboring state of kano. And 5000 villages were dangerously affected by that flood, with about 88 square kilometers of farmlands were submerged. In Ibadan, a distance of about 150 kilometers from the city waiting to be submerged (lagos), 102 people lost their lives when flood, resulting from heavy rain damaged three bridges and caused a dam to overflow submerging buildings across the city. And estimated 200 people were displaced sometime in August this year.  As I write this piece, 10 people died and 25,000 displaced in Imo state as a result of flooding.

It is worth mentioning that the physical damage caused by flooding in the country cannot be quantified and ranges from structures, bridges, cars, sewerage systems, road ways, canals and the lost of human and animal lives. Equally, the contamination of drinking water as it becomes scarce. The economic impacts of flooding in recent times are also enormous. These include the cost of rebuilding structures, food shortage, cost of resettling displaced persons etc. it is the strict implementation of extant laws on urban planning with active participation of the local people would go a long way to check flooding in the country. These huge losses of lives and properties can’t wait!

 Now, erosion is seen as the mechanical process through which materials are removed from the region of the Earth’s surface. It can be caused by water, wind, ice and gravity. This ranges from gully, sheet or rill erosion. It is established that soil erosions (both coastal and inland) have devastating effect in all parts of the country. It is indeed the worst form of land degradation facing us at the moment.  And Records available show that, there are over 200 active gully erosion sites across the length and breath of the country, with 505 of them located in south East Nigeria, especially, in Abia and Anambra states.

The bottom line as I negotiate the sharp bend of conclusion is the public participation component in the design and execution of projects related to flood prevention and erosion control is at best at its nadir. The federal ministry of Environment and its sister agencies at the states level have not imbibed the spirit and letters of public involvement in flood and erosion control management. Profiling of areas prone to erosion and flooding is ought to be done and table such for discussion with the communities for sustainable solutions to be arrived at. There is seeming inertia, for these agencies of government still operate on the top-down approach to project conception, planning and execution which is now archaic and has been discovered to be un-sustainable. The era in which a Director or any government official would sit in the office and conjure the problems of the people and at the same time design solutions is no longer tenable. Hence stakeholders in the environment sector need to come to grips with these hard facts of planning realities. There shall be continued huge expenditure on erosion and flood control without any sustainable success, if the public who are the primary victims/beneficiaries are not involved. It is observed throughout the world that the involvement of the public or benefiting communities help in checkmating corruption and unnecessary leakages. It equally gives room for the discovery of indigenous techniques and local resources would be utilized.

 These are some reasons why flood and erosion prevention, control and management can’t wait for the installation of what the ministries called Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) across the 36 states, for there are other innovative ways of tackling the twin problems of flood and erosion in the country. These are direct impacts of climate change.

Haruna Manu Isah

Environmentalist with,

Al-Mustapha Consulting Limited

U.B.A Building,Tudun Wada

Kaduna

Email; harunamanu@ymail.com      

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Posted by on Oct 27 2011. Filed under Articles, Columnists, Haruna Manu Isah, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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