Sunday, September 30, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere!

Coming in to land at Yola airport, I was simply struck by the sheer magnitude of devastation to the surrounding communities from the quadruple threat of a more than average heavy and persistent rainfall compounded by the release of water from Kiri and Lagdo dam in Cameroon, and then River Benue overflowing its banks.  

I lost count of the number of houses that only had protruding roofs. The devastation was heart wrenching. The impact on the affected lives is unquantifiable.
Our communities are on the path of environmental annihilation. This scene has been repeated from Imo State where roads have simply been eroded cutting off the governor who could not get to his village to assess damage, to Edo state with at least 20 communities affected and approximately ten thousand people made homeless, to the closure of Abuja –Lokoja road due to river Niger overflowing its banks and submerging  bordering communities and huge tracts of farmland, to Cross River with devastation across 49 villages  displacing over 12,000 citizens and destroying valuable farmland, and in Taraba with over 13,000 displaced persons in 30 communities.
The stories are all the same. All are affected in one way or the other. This has been the worst in over three decades especially as our two main rivers appear not to be fortified to withstand heavy rains. The President we are told has asked the Ministers of Environment and Works to shift base and move to the affected communities. Let us hope it is not too late and their presence makes a difference and most importantly, they have the resources to tackle the problems.
Fundamentally though, Nigeria has had a higher than average rainfall this year and it appears we are yet again not ready and certainly caught napping.  The Nigeria Meteorological Agency had gone on an advocacy warning of the impending rains and flooding but it appears their message did not get through to the population even as it was done in local languages.
Is it us as a people who are not prepared or the various state governments that are not doing their jobs? In the case of the North-eastern states, the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) came out to defend its position under the Nigeria-Cameroon Bilateral Commission, and felt its job had been done prior to the release of excess water thereby passing the buck to the state governments. The state governments did not take action. Some cynics will say state governments are hoping the flooding will occur so they get extra funding from the centre. I pray this is not the case. 
The citizenry on its part is perhaps not aware of the inherent dangers of building houses on low lying plains due to a lack of understanding, and see the land as their friend. Driving between Yola and Jalingo for instance, there are numerous NEMA signs indicating flood plains and areas peoples should avoid, but it still did not prevent people dying from flooding.
It is important that citizens also take personal responsibility for their inability to act. We saw how poverty prevented many citizens in New Orleans in 2005 from fleeing from Hurricane Katrina despite it being a category five and a one week warning. The point is, where will they go and who will protect their property?
Like any country, Nigeria has its fair share of government agencies that are directly responsible for these problems. Funds of course will always be a problem, but an urgent advocacy drive would be useful.
So what can we all do to avoid future devastation? Our monthly environmental exercise needs a rethink. It is lacklustre and no one really knows its purpose. The FCT has gone as far as eliminating it totally. I am an advocate of community involvement from the local level. Our local leaders must know their environs and understand what they are prone to and hopefully educate their followers on that.
Simple things like decongesting drainages, picking litter, planting trees, recycling rubbish, demarcating land properly and clearly identifying danger zones, not building on reclaimed land or on Fadama areas, allowing rivers to follow their natural tributaries will help.
It is a collective effort and not that of government alone. We the people must take responsibility in our immediate communities to ensure that we come together to avert future crises. We cannot continue to lament when the obvious is staring us in the face. If we respect nature and live in harmony with it, we will live with water everywhere but not in our front rooms.

1 comment:

  1. Such scenario always happen in our country. The root cause really of water everything is the human act itself.