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South-East stakeholders reiterate concern over erosion-induced environmental degradation

Some stakeholders in the South-East of Nigeria have reiterated their concern over the adverse effects of gully erosion on the land mass, agriculture and roads in the zone.

Erosion Awka
The Federal High Court, Awka under serious gully erosion threat and at the verge of imminent collapse

The stakeholders made their observations known while responding to a survey on “Erosion and Desertification”.

Dr Emmanuel Okafor, Permanent Secretary in the Anambra State Ministry of Environment, said in Awka, the state capital, that there were over 1,000 active gully erosion sites in the state.

Okafor said gully erosion was shrinking the land mass of Anambra such that the state which was rated second smallest behind Lagos was fast becoming the state with the smallest land mass in the country.

The permanent secretary said the effect included gradual disappearance of available land for agriculture, collapse of buildings, and destruction of roads.

He said the increasing reduction in available land was taking a toll on the society as people engaged in conflicts because of scramble for land for farming and living.

“Because of the problem of gully erosion, there is an increasing number in the cases of land dispute in the state now,” Okafor said.

He said the state government was working on about 100 cases including about 20 being handled by the jointly funded Nigeria Erosion Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) which he said might be terminated by the middle of the year.

Okafor said the erosion menace in Anambra was so huge that the government could not control the incidences on its own.

He appealed to residents of Anambra to imbibe culture of healthy environmental practices like proper disposal of waste, good collection, and channelling of rainwater in homes, and professional termination of drainage by construction firms.

In Enugu, the Head of Department, Climate Change, Enugu State Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Mr Nnamdi Arum, said no fewer than eight local government areas in the state were affected by erosion.

Arum said most communities in Enugu North Senatorial District, especially Udenu and Igboeze North Local Government Areas, were under serious erosion threat, and something urgent must be done to save the situation.

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He said that the state was also affected by desertification, though on a marginal scale.

Arum said that both environmental hazards had affected agricultural activities in the area, leading to threats in the quest for food security in the state.

“About eight local government areas have issues with gullies. The issue of erosion and desertification actually caused the extinction of arable crops, land degradation and soil sterilisation,” he said.

Arum said that several families had been displaced and properties worth billions of naira wiped out in the area due to the erosion menace.

He, however, commended the Federal Government for its ecological programmes which led to intervention by the NEWMAP.

Arum said that the agency had carried out some major intervention projects in the state, adding that more works still needed to be done.

“NEWMAP was set up by the Federal Government as a solution to some ecological issues and it has received much support from the state government through the payment of counterpart funds,” he said.

Arum expressed concern that the activities of some categories of people in the state were responsible for desertification, adding that the ministry was making efforts to combat such.

In Abia, Mr Izuchukwu Onwughara, the Project Manager of NEWMAP in the state, blamed human activities for the pervasive erosion menace in the state.

Onwughara said in Umuahia, the state capital, that the South-East was susceptible to erosion because of the soil texture, high rainfall, high population density and undulating terrain.

He said that erosion had been on the increase because people failed to take certain precautionary measures to keep their environment safe, especially with the rising impact of climate change.

“Human activities help to worsen the occurrence of erosion and I urge people to desist from engaging in activities that exacerbate the menace.

“People should reduce the incidence of building interlocking stones in their environments because they help to increase runoff, which forms storm water that increases erosion power.

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“It is advisable to form the habit of planting grasses and trees in our surroundings or neighbourhood and practice water harvesting to reduce runoff.

“In the instance of infrastructure development, we advise that proper drainage system should be built to ensure that storm water is channelled very well to safe disposal points,” Onwughara explained.

He said that Abia had its own share of soil erosion but that the state government had conducted intervention activities in various parts of the state through NEWMAP.

Onwughara said the World Bank had given approval for the project designs of erosion sites in Methodist Church, Uzuakoli, Olu Amaike Ohafia, Ogudu Asaa and Ndiegoro floods and Ifeobara plains in the state.

He said that the project designs of erosion sites in Umunwanwa, Okpulukwu Umuosu, Nkwuagu Isuochi, Agburuike Isiugwu, Umuola Okpulor and Amawom Oboro were awaiting approval.

Also, Mr Stanley Nwabuisi, the lawmaker representing Ikwuano State Constituency in the state House of Assembly, described gully erosion as “a major challenge affecting virtually every community in the state”.

Nwabuisi said that erosion was ravaging nearly all the communities in his constituency, with little or no hope of control from relevant government authorities.

“The only effort we see is done by the communities themselves. They come occasionally, to see how they can control the menace using traditional approaches.

“But it is something that we need the experts’ attention,” he said.

The legislator therefore called on the Federal Government to intervene in tackling the erosion challenge.

According to him, the Federal Government should expand funding for NEWMAP, so it can reach every part of the state.

Mr Joshua Nwabueze, a community leader in Umuawa-Alaocha in Umuahia North Local Government Area of the state, said his area appeared to be one of the worst hit by gully erosion.

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Nwabueze lamented that his community was faced with the danger of extinction, saying that erosion had washed away a large expanse of the land.

“We are almost cut off from our neighbouring communities. If not for the intervention of one of our prominent sons, we would have been completely severed off from Umuahia, the capital city.

“We are largely an agrarian community, and we need to evacuate our produce to the cities, but our roads have been rendered impassable by erosion,” he said.

Nwabueze, who appealed for government’s urgent intervention, noted that similar appeals by the community in the past had not yielded any result.

Meanwhile, the Imo State Government has warned residents of the state to desist from practices that could lead to environmental degradation.

The state Commissioner for Petroleum and Environment, Mr Ikechukwu Njoku, blamed the dearth of agricultural activities especially in riverine areas, on environmental degradation and urged residents to beware of their own activities.

Njoku said that actions such as indiscriminate felling of trees and bush burning should be discontinued as a way of checking desertification.

“We cannot do different things and expect different results. Agricultural activities in riverine areas have suffered because of human activities.

“It is pertinent to remind Imo residents that as part of our 3R mantra, we intend to go green through planting of trees in different locations.

“We urge our people to support this vision by engaging in environment friendly activities,” he said.

Njoku, however, commended the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for coming to the aid of communities affected by erosion.

He also urged kind and patriotic Nigerians to support government’s efforts toward preservation of the environment.

“NEMA in Imo is doing a lot to sustain lives in erosion prone areas of the state. If individuals can complement these efforts, the story will be different,” Njoku said.

By Razak Owolabi

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