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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A tale of two dams

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has warned that the rains will be intensive this year and that communities located along the Niger River basin should brace up for more flood.

NIMET officials gave the prediction recently while presenting the agency’s report of this year’s rainfall expectations. They put the commencement of the rains from February running through June, with a lull between early October and late December across the country.

Last year’s episode is still very fresh in our minds. It was a national disaster. Numerous communities were overrun by flood as major rivers, swollen from weeks of torrential rainfall and release of water upstream, overflowed their banks. Thousands were displaced and they had to be accommodated at relief camps established at several locations.

The incident started when the Benue River flooded adjourning communities. The river was said to have been distended by large volumes of water released upstream at the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon.

Since 1982 when the dam was built in Lagdo town on the Adamawa Plateau in the Northern Province of Cameroon along the course of the Benue River, lowland communities in north-eastern Nigerian states (of Borno, Adamawa and Taraba) especially those located downstream within the River Benue drainage basin are usually flooded whenever water is released from the reservoir.

Last year was not an exception as the floods submerged hundreds of settlements in Adamawa State, killing people and displacing thousands of families. Many were reportedly missing. The entire upper and lower Benue River basin was extensively flooded.

The deluge spread to other parts of the country, this time due largely to the Niger River’s flooding.

Concerns were also raised over what looks like a disaster waiting to happen. Ironically, it also concerns Cameroon, where the notorious Lake Nyos is located.

Scientists fear that the protective walls of the lake are weakening and could collapse at any time and, in the process, free its large volume of water, which is expected to flow along a course from its native Cameroun into neighbouring Nigeria, where settlements will be extensively flooded.

Now, proposals have been put forward to address both Cameroon-related scenarios, but with little achieved in terms of these ideas seeing the light of the day.

For instance, following an agreement involving Nigeria and Cameroon in 1980, the Nigerian government committed to building a dam along the course of the Benue River, ostensibly to contain the gushing water released upstream from Lagdo Dam and curb flooding and attendant destruction of property and loss of lives.

In 1981, a shock-absorber dam was designed. Tagged the “Dasin Hausa Dam,” the multi-purpose facility was, besides cushioning the effect of the Lagdo Dam flooding, supposed to generate some 300mw of electricity and irrigate about 150,000 hectares of land (and provide crop tonnage of 790,000 tons in Adamawa, Taraba and Benue states). Similarly, it was meant to provide employment opportunities for 40,000 families and make available navigational route of the Benue River to the Niger Delta.

The project site is the Dasin Village of Fufore Local Government Area of Adamawa State.

Cameroonian authorities insist that they will continue to release excess water to avoid the dam’s collapse. According to a source, since the release of excess water from Cameroon cannot be stopped, construction of the Dasin Hausa Dam remains the best option.

But the construction of the dam is yet to be embarked upon.

However, the authorities have commenced work on the Kashimbilla/Gamovo Multipurpose Dam project in Taraba State, which will serve as a buffer upon the event of an earthquake and the collapse of the Lake Nyo’s wall.

The dam can generate 40mw of electricity with the capacity for expansion to 60mw. It is located between Kashimbilla and Gamovo on River Katsina-Ala in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State.

Upon completion, the dam is expected to measure 35m in height, 1,585m in length and 150m width with reservoir capacity of 500mcm, irrigate an area of 2000ha and treat 60,000m3 of water to supply 400,000 people.

Government officials have variously expressed satisfaction at the progress of work on the project.

Contract for the construction of the dam and associated structures was awarded to Messrs Setraco Construction Company (SCC) Nigeria Limited in 2007 with a revised contract price of N60.63 billion for the multipurpose development of flood control, water supply, hydropower supply, irrigation, tourism and fishery potentials.

The dam, which is said to be 40 per cent completed, has an expected completion date of April 2014.

It is imperative for the Federal Government to build the Dasin Hausa Dam to cushion the effect of water released by Lagdo Dam. The original design and feasibility study that was done in 1982 will to a large extent be outdated and should be improved upon.

The authorities should likewise ensure that funds are released as scheduled to ensure speedy completion of the Kashimbilla/Gamovo Dam.

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