Conservationists want govenment to adopt far-reaching solutions rather than the usual fire brigade approach towards mitigating flooding. DAYO AYEYEMI reports
Cities such as Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Benin and Eket in Akwa Ibom State have not been spared as flood water, after heavy downpour, covers major roads, streets and communities, destroying property and rendering many residents homeless.
This is just the beginning, more rains are coming and many houses will be destroyed as it occurs yearly.
While government’s concentration is presently on COVID-19, experts and conservationists have been expressing worries over this year’s flood prediction and the usual authority’s fire brigade approach towards mitigating its devastating effects on humans, property and economy.
They lamented that government’s response would not go beyond clearing of drains, rescue operations and threat of relocating people living in low areas. For far-reaching solutions, the experts want the review of urban physical development plans to include drainage planning.
They are also seeking collaboration among stakeholders on both short and long term flood remediation plans. Rain means different things to different people. To farmers, rain helps in growing and maintenance of crops.
To urban dwellers and environmentalists, rain clears the air, replenishes aquifers, allows plants to grow, eventually fills streams, rivers, lakes and ponds and adds humidity to the air.
As good as most Nigerians expect rain for agriculture, water supply and cooling, most people living in low-land and coastal areas dread it with the accompanying flood risk as it surmerges neighbourhoods, destroying lives and property.
For over a decade now, Nigeria has been regularly hit with severe global warming and climate change-induced perennial flooding and ocean surge.
So, when the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), early this year, released its 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP), to tell Nigerians when the rains would start, the earliest onset and the cessation date, the incidents of 2010, 2012, 2018 and 2019, which submerged communities in about 30 states, came to mind.
According to the prediction, onset of the rainy season in the southern part of Nigeria would be from February 24 and in the North, like Sokoto and Katsina, the earliest will be June 22.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) also warned of imminent flood in 102 local government areas across 28 states during this year’s rainy season.
While Nigerians have been expressing worries over imminent flood risks, the Director-General, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NHISA), Clement Nze, had been calling on stakeholders to start preparing for the 2020 flooding season in order to avoid what he referred to as fire brigade approach.
NHISA is responsible for monitoring all the major rivers in Nigeria, including the trans-boundary Rivers Niger and Benue. Apparently disturbed by the flood prediction, New Telegraph gathered that some states have moved into action to clear all drainage and water channels in preparation for rain.
Others are yet to wake to the reality, paying lip-sercive to the forecast. Incidents In the last three weeks, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Edo, Delta and Cross Rivers, among others, have been hit by the reality. In Ibadan, Oyo State, for example, a heavy downpour had resulted in flooding in some areas including Oke- Omi, Ikumapayi, Olodo and Onipepeye Bridges at Sawmill areas two weeks ago.
Two people died in the incident. During an on-the-spot assessment of the flood-affected areas, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, directed the execution of a drainage masterplan under the Ibadan Urban Flood Management project within the next 18 months. He also promised to relocate victims to a new site.
Also in Lagos State, despite the ongoing efforts of government in clearing and dredging some of the drainage channels, streets in the metropolis were flooded after the heavy rainfall of 17 June.
Again, almost 90mm of rain fell in Lagos from June 18 to 19, resulting in massive flooding.
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) said that 20 families were displaced at Orile-Agege as a result of flooding. Report also said that a woman was killed after her house in Ogudu collapsed due to the heavy rain.
Other states of the country, including Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Delta, Ogun, and Borno have seen heavy rains and flooding in the last few days.
Apart from indiscriminate and illegal buildings on water channels and flood plains, and lack of drainage on major roads in most cities, blockage of drainage channels by silt, refuse, including plastic materials, were responsible for flooding.
These inhibit free flow of storm water, resulting in flooding. Experts views A former Communication Manager, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mr. Paddy Ezeala, urged government to review existing physical development plans in the country in order to create drainage channels where they ought to be.
Besides, he pointed out that there was need to look at both short and long terms flood remediation plans in the country, noting that all tiers of government have not done well to the environment.
According to him, problems such as flooding and erosion came because there was something not done well. While planning for cities or town, Ezeala stated that environmental planning should also be taken into consideration.
“Today, Victoria Island and communities in coastline are been flooded due to the fact that their Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) were neglected,” he said.
Ezeala bemoaned indiscriminate sand dredging and filling in Lagos without any recourse to EIA. While calling for a review of urban development plans, he also canvassed government’s collaboration on environmental response with the private sector and professionals.
According to him, the 25 million tree planting campaign of President Mohammadu Buhari should not just be a government thing, but ensure collaboration with environmental agencies and institutions.
Also, the Zonal Coordinator, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Slaku Luggard Bijimi, told this newspaper that poor drainage system, indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents in water channels and illegal buildings on flood plains were responsible for perennial flooding incidents in Ibadan and Abeokuta.
As one of the ways out, he said that a stakeholders’ meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday (today) in the House Of Chiefs in Ibadan to sensitise residents.
Besides, Bijimi said NEMA officials have been talking with the management of Oyan Dam to always inform them whenever it wanted to release water.
“We are setting up Local Government Emergency Committee. We are also trying to hold meetings with all the local government chairmen on the issue,” he said.
In Abeokuta and Ibadan, the NEMA zonal coordinator said one of the issues was that the opening of the water channel was small.
“As it is, more rains are coming and many houses will be destroyed,” he said.
He also noted that despite marking some of the houses in flood-plain areas for demolition, people are still living there. Bijimi enjoined government to demolish these houses and evacuate the affected residents to safe locations.
He said: “ “It is like Ibadan’s residents waited for the rain to come as they dumped their refuse in the drainage channel. “In Abeokuta, the flood is always affecting the same location.
We discovered that dredging is a problem. A lot of people need to be evacuated.
Warning As many states are asking residents in flood-prone areas to move to upland areas of the cities, Lagos State government has urged residents of four local government areas (LGAs), namely Lagos Mainland, Mushin, Ibeju- Lekki and Ikorodu, with a high probability of flood risk during this season to be at alert.
In a statement, Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, emphasised that the four listed local government areaswould witness more high-intensity rainfall between now and September.
He, therefore, implored the residents of the listed areas, especially those with structures in low lying areas, to relocate during this period to avoid any untoward incident, which may come with flooding and the resultant loss of lives and property.
Bello, referencing the Annual Flood Outlook released by the Hydrological Services Agency on May 28, 2020, also identified 14 other local government areas that would face probable flood risks this year as Lagos Island, Alimosho, Amuwo Odofin, Ikeja, Kosofe, Eti-Osa, Apapa, Ojo, Oshodi/Isolo, Agege, Ifako Ijaiye, Badagry, Surulere and Ajeromi-Ifelodun.
The commissioner assured that the ministry would intensify efforts at clearing the drains as well as removing pet bottles and styrofoams as exemplified by the efforts of the Emergency Flood Abatement Gangs all over the black spots in the state.
A good drainage system checks the effect of flash flood, which results in a safer environment.