Raymond Ozoji, Awka
Erosion is gradually tearing Anambra state into shreds such that in no distant future, the state may sink into oblivion if urgent proactive remedial actions are not taken to save the lives and properties of the citizenry currently living in fear and uncertainty. Granted that the quantum and magnitude of erosion devastation across the length and breadth of the state are not exactly what the Anambra State Government can carry on its shoulders alone due to the capital intensiveness of the gullies, the question remains, should Anambra state be condemned to eternal erosion menace without a modicum of hope of redemption in sight for its citizens whose houses and other landed properties collapse into the gullies rendering many hopeless, homeless and displaced.
There are over 1000 active erosion sites in Anambra and from all indications, these sites require huge financial involvements to frontally tackle the menace. The truth of the matter is that Anambra state requires global assistance to address environmental devastation like erosion.
The state commissioner for works, Engr. Marcel Ifejiofor, said erosion was a serious business and that most times, it was the federal government that handled it because of its enormity. Although he said that the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) through the World Bank assisted the state government in solving erosion issues as evident in NEWMAP’s intervention at the erosion site threatening the federal secretariat, state secretariat complex as well as the three arms zone in Awka; the the Anambra State Government was handling some of the erosion sites with the meagre resources available to it. He said that the state government had tackled the erosion problem at Obosi Idemili-North area of the state and the project was done by Infrastructure Development Company (IDC). He said the erosion site between Abba-Ukpo-Oyeagu road was currently being handled by the state government.
The commissioner recalled that erosion had threatened to cut off Ideani-Nnobi-Umuoji road last year but the state government intervened and rescued the situation. He said that the gigantic erosion site at the 100 foot road Nnewi was on the verge of being awarded to IDC by the state government stressing that the most devastating reality is that there are about 1000 active erosion sites threatening to consume the entire state and that it is of paramount concern that the federal government should help save Anambra state from the rampaging landslides. He said that the meagre resources at the disposal of the state government wouldn’t be enough to tackle the many erosion sites across the state even though Governor Willie Obiano was making significant progress in tackling some of the erosion problems.
The commissioner, who observed that the state is made of Alovian soil which is erosion-prone, noted that one of the major causes of erosion problems was the poor discharge of drainage. As a result, the commissioner said that the state governor set up a Design Review Committee which has one of its obligations to ascertain that the designs of the roads met international acceptable standards especially as it concerns proper discharge of drainage through water channels. According to him, the state governor has equally directed the physical planning board to remove structures built on water ways to avoid blockages which may eventually lead to erosion problems.
Mark Okoye, the commissioner for budget, economic planning and development partners also lent credence to the devastating effects of erosion and landslides in Anambra state. Okoye said though the state government had been making countless appeals to the federal government to come to its rescue, erosion was not a state government issue but primarily the concern of the federal government. He said there should be a declaration that Anambra state be viewed as the erosion capital of the Nigerian federation and that there should be strategic funds set aside to tackle the problems in the state.
According to him, there are about 960 active erosion sites in Anambra as at 2017 and would cost about N9.8 billion to treat the first phase of about six phases in one erosion site. Again, the commissioner pointed out that it would cost Anambra State Government a whopping sum of about N4.8 trillion to tackle all the erosion sites in the state where each of the sites on average, cost about N5 billion. He said N4.8 trillion is twice the money federal government spends on capital expenditures for the whole country and about 13 times more than the budget of Anambra state. The commissioner said that apart from federal government assistance, there is a dire need for the world to understand the plight of Anambra state as it struggles to wriggle itself out of the clutches of erosion devastation. The commissioner who said that there are about three active erosion sites in his country home Ifitedunu Dunukofia local government area, noted further that the state government has been able to attract the sympathy of World Bank through the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project( NEWMAP ) to help the state address some of its erosion issues.
According to him, about 100 homes are currently under threat of erosion menace and about 2000 persons may be displaced. He said NEWMAP is currently handling about 10 erosion sites while the state government is addressing about four out of about 960 active sites. The commissioner said that a state of emergency should be declared on erosion in Nigeria with Anambra state as the erosion capital of the country. He opined that the remote causes of erosion problems could be traced to when Anambra state was created. He said the topography of the state was not taken into consideration when the state was created in 1991. He therefore observed that roads built at inception had poor drainage which according to him was the reason flood descended on them thereby causing erosion. He however suggested that erosion control is a collective responsibility; that the citizenry should avoid blocking water channels and also adhere strictly to the conditions of the state physical planning board in building houses and other structures while being environmentally conscious in their actions and activities.
Also, Dr. Emmanuel Okafor, permanent secretary of the ministry of environment decried the extent of erosion devastation across Anambra state. He said, “We have over 900 erosion sites in Anambra and it will be impossible for the state government to meet up with the funds required to address them. So the state government is trying its best. More than 50 erosion sites are under construction currently in different parts of the state. Our policy is that we have been asking the communities to take some proactive actions by ensuring that once it starts at a very small state, they can plant some trees to hold the erosion or they can write to us early not waiting until their houses are about to cave in before they write to us. The government is trying the much it can but there are too many active erosion sites in the state.”
The permanent secretary however disclosed that there were about 60 contractors working on some of the erosion sites across Anambra state, noting that government took ample time to select the contractors ensuring that they have the capacity and equipment to work at the erosion sites. Be that as it may, he stated that the porosity of the soil as well as the behaviour of the Anambra man towards the environment were some of the root causes of erosion devastation in the state. To this end, he observed that people keep cutting trees without replacing them and also block water channels by throwing refuse into drainage without remedial actions. Although he recalled that in the past, people built catchment pits to control run-off water, he expressed worry that such practice was no longer tenable in recent times as people now display outright animosity on the environment by silting the drainage leading to landslides and eruptions.
He said government spent huge sums of money to desilt gutters so that water could flow freely to termination points adding that in places like Obosi area of Idemili-North local government, people built houses on water ways thereby causing serious flood whenever it rained and such flood waters penetrate the earth causing eruptions in a bid to find its way. He therefore recommended that citizens of Anambra state must abide by sanitation laws. They must clean their surroundings regularly and empty the gutters to avoid flooding. The permanent secretary equally suggested that the federal government should expedite actions and assist Anambra State Government to solve its erosion problems.
Meanwhile, NEWMAP has extended its interventions to Anambra state to assist her in carrying out remedial works on some of the erosion sites across the state. In spite of the magnitude of the gullies, NEWMAP and the Anambra State Government have taken the bull by the horn to ensure that lives and properties were protected from the menacing ditches across the state.
NEWMAP has completed intervention on St. Thomas Aquinas/Neros Plaza erosion site Awka handled by Anchor Noel construction firm. It has also carried out remedial works on Amachalla village Awka erosion site, handled by Pachuks Nig Ltd. NEWMAP has also intervened at the New Heritage/Omagba erosion site, done by NIC & NIC Construction Ltd. Other erosion sites where NEWMAP is currently intervening in Anambra state include Ekwueme Square/Federal High Court Awka being handled by IDC Construction Ltd., Ugamuma-Obosi erosion site handled by Chez Aviv Nig Ltd, Ikenga Ogidi gully handled by Chez Aviv Nig Ltd., Enugwu-Ukwu erosion site handled by CGC-CHWE Joint Ventures, Abidi- Umuoji erosion site handled by CGC-CHWE Joint Ventures, Nkpor Flyover handled by Monier Construction Company, Nnewichi gully handled by CGC-YSEJ Joint Ventures, Ojoto erosion site handled by CGC-YSEJ Joint Ventures, Ire-Obosi erosion site handled by Monier Construction Company and Abagana erosion site being handled by Chez Aviv Nig Ltd.
The Communications Officer of NEWMAP in Anambra state Mr. Emeka Achebe who explained the modus operandi of the Organisation, said it was a tripartite agreement between the federal government, the Anambra State Government and the World Bank. Achebe said that Governor Willie Obiano had already paid N1billion counterpart funding for NEWMAP to carry out Monitoring and Evaluation Baseline Study to ascertain root causes of erosion, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to ascertain environmental factors as well as Resettlement Action Plan to resettle all those affected during NEWMAP’s interventions, noting that the organization applies multiple approach in tackling erosion.
He said apart from civil works, NEWMAP has also provided grants-in-aid to those affected by their interventions to boost their means of livelihoods and welfare. The NEWMAP’s communications officer said some of the beneficiaries of the organization’s livelihood support programmes include St. Thomas Aquinas/Neros Plaza Awka, Amachalla village Awka, Uruokpala Umudunu Abagana and New Heritage Omagba, to mention a few while more communities are being profiled for the same purpose.
He figured climate change as a causative factor for erosion devastation but emphasized the need for Anambra citizens to imbibe good environmental practices to curb it.
Another issue he raised was sand-mining. He said sand-mining causes erosion and that people equally block water ways and build structures on water channels. These, according to him, are some of the reasons NEWMAP is encouraging communities to have environmental groups as well as make by-laws that would make people become environmentally friendly. Thus, good environmental practices such as tree planting, beautification, desilting of drainage, standard road designs, use of receptacles, proper evacuation of refuse and a host of others could help curb erosion devastation in Anambra state.