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Saturday, September 30, 2023

NEMA, stakeholders engage in flood mitigating actions in South-East

Environment stakeholders have embarked on flood mitigating actions and public education on adequate preparation to forestall the negative effects of flooding in Nigeria’s South-East region.

Anambra flood
Flooding in Anambra State

In Enugu State, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) says it has embarked on massive sensitisation in local governments on need to build temporary shelter camps in flood prone communities.

The South-East Coordinator of NEMA, Mr James Eze, said that the agency had reactivated the Local Emergency Management Committee (LEMC) in each of the 17 local government areas (LGAs).

Eze said that the agency through the active collaboration of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) had gone on a sensitisation tour of 15 out of the 17 LGAs.

“We alert them on the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NHISA) prediction and the need for them to be alert and start preparing on time by keeping close touch with their local LEMC, SEMA and NEMA.

“After reactivating the LEMCs in each council areas visited, we advised them to identify high level areas that will serve as temporary camps peradventure the flood comes probably in September or October.

“We also warned residents in communities in low land areas in Aniri, Uzo Uwani and Isi-uzo among others to get ready to relocate to safe places and temporary camps,” he said.

For the flash flood within Enugu metropolis, the coordinator said opening up drainage channels was key, adding that waterways must be cleared of refuse to ensure free flow of water.

Prof. Christian Madu of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka said that apart from sensitisation on flood and its alert, there was need for modern drainage system in all cities in the country.

Madu, a Professor of Environmental Management and Control, said a larger drainage system with perforated openings connected to a central collection reservoir was needed in every city or community.

“The present drainage system of open gutters, which is not deep enough and prone to refuse blockage, can no longer contain the huge amount of water from downpour that leads to flooding.

“Following modern trends, buildings and structure development had taken over known ancient and natural waterways,’’ he said.

In Anambra, the State Emergency Management Agency advised residents of flood prone communities to prepare ahead of the imminent flooding predicted by NHISA.

Mr Emeka Obinwa, the Executive Assistant to Gov. Willie Obiano on SEMA, gave the advice in Awka, the state capital.

Obinwa said people living in flood plains of Ogbaru, Anambra East, Anambra West, Ihiala, Onitsha South, Idemili North and Nnewi North must take proactive measures ahead of time.

“People living in flood prone communities should start now to get their medicals, essentials and other important items together, pending when the flooding starts,’’ he said.

Obinwa said that SEMA had embarked on enlightenment and sensitisation tours of the areas that usually recorded flooding.

He said that the agency would clear and fumigate the centres to ensure early and prompt evacuation of victims once alert on flood disaster was received.

Obinwa advised the people not to ignore flood alerts by relevant agencies, noting that careless handling of such warnings had caused untoward consequences in the past.

He appealed to those in urban areas to stop the attitude of dumping solid waste into drainages.

On his part, Mr Arinze Awogu, the Transition Committee Chairman of Ogbaru Local Government Area said his council was partnering SEMA in ensuring that people took the early warnings seriously.

Awogu said that farmers in the area had been told to begin harvesting their crops to avoid being caught in the web of flooding.

In Imo, the state government said it had begun desilting of drainages as well as construction of new roads as part of measures to mitigate effects of the impending flood in the state.

Mrs Sabina Onwuchi, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, said that the state government had collected statistics of possible areas that could be flooded.

“The governor is making frantic efforts to build new roads and drainage system to channel flood water to major rivers.

“We have also commenced massive desilting of drainages. As finance permits, we do them in bits.

“The government has identified some areas like World Bank and Egwu Road axis as major areas where flooding do occur and is working to reduce the impact on the populace,” Onwuchi said.

However, an environment expert, Mr Francis Abioye, urged the state government to approach the flood threat from two angles: control and prevention.

According to Abioye, with respect to control measures, experts need to be involved to carry out proper channelisation of excess water from the roads and other waterways, to rivers.

“This was done before in Imo which was why we do not experience flooding but most of these channels have been blocked when they did some construction without involving experts.

“They blocked even service lanes which has added more to the dangers.

“We need to go back again to check those projects that tampered with the channels and waterways to free them again,” he said.

Abioye, a specialist in biodiversity conservation, also advised the state government not to construct drainages for all road projects.

“There are some places where they are not supposed to do drainages. Such places will become water reservoirs. What they need is vegetative channel,” he said.

On preventive measures, Abioye called on the government to engage in mitigation measures that would reduce effects of flooding caused by climate change and increase in sea level.

“Most of the coastal cities may be flooded with little degree rise in global warming.

“We need to take every human activity that pollutes environment and causes global warming seriously.

“The indiscriminate gas flaring by oil firms in the country should also be checked through the existing laws,” he added.

In Ebonyi, environment stakeholders had also expressed huge concern over the prediction of heavy rainfall by the Nigerian Meteorological Services Agency (NiMET).

Mr Ken Oziomaeze, Director, Ebonyi State Emergency Management Agency, said that 10 out of the 13 local government areas had been identified as highly and moderately probable flood risk areas.

The local governments include Ohaozara, Onicha, Afikpo South, Afikpo North, Ebonyi, and Ezza South.

On level of preparedness for imminent flooding, Oziomaeze said the agency had established Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in the listed areas.

According to him, SEMA makes use of primary and secondary schools as camps and officials have visited some of them in anticipation of the predicted flooding.

“The SEMA has embarked on community-to-community sensitation on the need for safety when the flood occurs.

“Right now, we are still going round to those areas to ensure that adequate precautions are being taken.

“We have advised those residing in flood prone areas to relocate to higher ground; it is high time we stopped indiscriminate dumping of refuse to prevent flooding in the state.

“The residents can also assist government to prevent the flooding of urban areas by not building on water channels, and clearing their drainages to accommodate the volume of water after each rainfall.

“Yes, we have embarked on clearing of water canals. The residents should desist from littering them with refuse,” Oziomaeze advised.

Prof. Chima Njoku, Head, Department of Soil Science and Environmental Management, Ebonyi State University, called for proactive steps to prepare for flooding in the state.

Njoku described flooding as a general problem to individuals and the public while he urged people to obey laws made by the government to ensure they remained safe during flooding.

“Flooding can be utilised depending on the policies around the state.

“But, if there are dams to save the water occasioned by flooding, we can use them for irrigation and promote regular farming activities and cultivate our crops.

“So, government can utilise flooding by creating dams, reservoir where the water from the flood can be stored for dry season farming,” he advised.

Mr John Nnachi, an environment expert, while speaking in Abakaliki, called for possible ways of preventing flooding, noting that his family had been living in fear since the prediction.

Nnachi, a resident of Afikpo, urged the state government to make laws on indiscriminate dumping of refuse effective, so as to reduce the effect of flooding on residents.

In Abia, the Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, Mr Sunday Jackson, said government was conscious of the predictions that Abia would experience heavy flooding during rainy season.

Jackson added that, subsequently, government had initiated measures to check and mitigate its impact.

The executive secretary said that government had already commenced the expansion and desilting of drainages in Aba, Umuahia and other towns and the dredging of water end points.

He said the agency also organised a sensitisation meeting with major stakeholders, where riverine and flood prone communities were advised on remedial measures to take when they observed signs of flooding.

Jackson said that communities in Ukwa West, Ukwa East and Arochukwu local government areas living close to rivers and big streams had been advised to relocate for their safety before the rivers would overflow.

He said that over 27 of the 50 flood-prone communities in the state had so far reported cases of flooding in their areas.

Jackson also said that 14 of the 17 LGAs, including Obingwa, Ugwunagbo, Aba North, Aba South and Bende were likely to be affected by flooding in the rainy season.

“We have already recorded 16 deaths, including 13 children and three adults.

“We also have reports of houses, shops, schools and churches that were submerged by flood.

“The development has led to massive displacement of many people in the affected communities,” the SEMA head said.

He further said that Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu had given approval for the procurement of relief materials to be stockpiled for quick intervention during emergencies.

However, a community leader from Isialangwa North LGA, Chief Isaac Nwoke, has expressed worry over the impending flooding of some communities in the locality.

Nwoke, who is from Mbara Ogbom Ancient Kingdom, alleged that both state and federal governments were doing practically nothing to prevent or mitigate the impact of flooding in the area.

“It is individual communities that are making frantic efforts to protect their areas from the flood disaster.

“The situation in my area is also worsened by the heavy duty trucks that use our communities as thoroughfare because of the bad condition of the major road,” he said.

Nwoke appealed to the state and federal governments to come to the aid of the affected communities.

“We are suffering. Flood is threatening to wash away our farmlands and homes,” he said.

By Razak Owolabi

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