Stakeholders in the water sector have advocated for a declaration of rights for all the major rivers in the country.
They said that the measure would guarantee protection for the rivers against pollution and other ecological threats.
The people made the call at the celebration of this year’s World Rivers Day on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, in Owerri, Imo State.
The event was organised by the Anambra-Imo River Basin Authority.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Importance of rivers to biodiversity,” while the sub-theme adopted in Nigeria is “Rights of rivers”.
An environmentalist, Prof. Mike Nwachukwu, delivered a lecture entitled, “Justifying rights of Rivers in Nigeria”.
He warned that the Otamiri and Nworie Rivers in Imo were on the verge of disappearing, if nothing is done to save them.
Nwachukwu, a professor of environmental management, Federal University of Technology Owerri, said that Otamiri had declined by 63 per cent.
He blamed the unfortunate development on climate change, human activities, population growth and high rise in carbon dioxide emissions.
He underlined the need for each basin authorities in the country to improve agricultural and rural development of irrigation control to mitigate the challenge of river pollution.
Mrs Theodora Uchenna, a Technical Assistant/Senior Special Adviser to Gov. Hope Uzodimma on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, also delivered another lecture at the event.
Speaking on the topic, “Implementation of Water Policy and Laws in protecting the rights of Rivers,” Uchenna called for an open defecation road map for South-East states.
She also called for a regulatory agency to inspect, monitor compliance and prosecute violators of the proposed rights of rivers law.
She further expressed concern that in spite of an existing law guiding construction of boreholes in Imo, residents were not applying for licences before drilling boreholes.
Managing Director, Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority, Mr Gerald Osuagwu, said the theme of the event was intended to draw attention to the degraded state of rivers in the country.
Osuagwu said that the Otamiri and Nworie Rivers within the Owerri metropolis were facing serious ecological threats.
He called for an end to open defecation, pollution of rivers and discharge of sewage and untreated effluents into the rivers.
He said that the South-East did not join the national celebration of the 2022 World Rivers Day on Monday because of security concerns.
In a remark, the Provost, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Dr Stella Lemchi, spoke of the importance of Nworie River to the college.
Lemchi expressed worry over the destruction of the river’s ecosystem through human activities.
“Unfortunately, the sloping shores of Nworie have faced the most violent and unrelenting destruction from illegal sand miners in the last decade.
“The college has made several depositions to successive Imo Governments and other government agencies to save our natural resources.
“We urge the Department of River Basin Operations and Ministry of Water Resources to take the issue of sand mining in River Nworie as a national emergency,” Lemchi said.
In a speech, the Managing Director, Imo State Water and Sewage Cooperation, Mr Emeka Ugoanyawu, said that he was disturned that virtually every river in the state had become receptacle for refuse.
“We have so polluted the rivers in Owerri that there is no borehole that can pass any Nigeria and international water standard,” Ugoanyawu said.
He said that the state government had begun the construction of public toilets in Owerri, Orlu, Okigwe and some other urban populated areas to eliminate open defecation.
Highlights of the event included a road show, symbolic river cleanup and tree planting at the Nworie River bank.
By Peter Okolie