Nigerian government has been charged by experts to adopt sustainable measures on flood mitigation rather than the current reactive measures that h
Nigerian government has been charged by experts to adopt sustainable measures on flood mitigation rather than the current reactive measures that have yielded no positive results over the years. Flooding has become an annual expectation in the Niger Delta with heightened negative impacts in 2012 and this year.
An environment expert, Dr. Kabari Sam, head of environment and conservation, Centre for Environment Human Rights and Democracy, CEHRED, Port Harcourt says our response to flooding though a perennial problem, has been merely reactive. “We already know that the floods will come but wait until it comes before we start acting”, he said in an interview with National Point Newspaper.
According to him, proactive sustainable responses should be put in place. This can be done by assuring that we have in place, “a town planning system ;flood plains, wet lands must be put into consideration, wet lands should be reserved”.
Said he: “People living in flood prone aeas should be relocated permanently to higher plains, including those in the communities. If we have low cost housing units (say two bedroom units for families of 3 – 4), shelter will be assured; programming a 5 – 10 year low cost housing unit will address this.
“We also have to address our behavioural pattern. Stop blocking the drainage, practice environmental sanitation not monthly sanitation exercise. This is a thing of habit/culture.
“Government on its part needs to end the practice of reclaiming of wetlands. In Port Harcourt for instance, reclamation of the Marine Base / Eastern by Pass has submerged houses around Garrison area because government is pursuing social development. The water comes back to claim its wetland. Wetlands must be reserved.
Dr. Kabari condemned strongly, the setting up of Internally Displaced Persons, IDP camps in schools, disrupting the education of children. “Setting up of IDPs is not a good idea. You displace students, disrupting their education.”
He suggested a planned low cost housing scheme in higher plains around the flood prone areas.
The CEHERD head of environment and conservation harped on the need for a strong town planning system that must respect the building codes for flood prone areas, etc.
“Our Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA is not strong. Rules must be respected, there must be a strong town planning system that states what structures can or cannot be put up where. There are places where people should not build. You have some 10 story-buildings where they should not be, some build on waterways blocking the flow of water.
“A strong town planning system provides building codes for flood prone areas. The foundation for building in a swamp area is different from that in an up-land area. The volume of ice in the Atlantic Ocean is melting so obeying rules are important.
“We also need to revive awareness on flood control right from the dry season to end the heavy impact of flooding. It is a multi-stakeholder responsibility”, he added.
Asked if oil companies should focus their corporate social responsibility on projects to combat flooding, Dr. Kabari said they cannot do everything.
He said: “Should they do everything? They are paying taxes. Their responsibility is to obey rules and regulations which they are doing. Deciding where to channel their social responsibility project is their right and should be where is beneficial to their business.
“However, if they are magnanimous enough, they can partner with government under the PPP. Dredging is capital intensive business but companies can partner with government under PPP to build low cost housing units of two-bedroom flats in upland places for flood prone citizens, creation of road maps; a 5-10 year road map to phase out high impact of flood”
He reiterated the importance of reserving wetlands. “We should allow wetlands to reclaim themselves and develop sustainable plans to mitigate flood impact.
“For people in Bayelsa State, shoreline dredging will help because some communities are below sea level. With dredged shorelines, there will be not much lost to water”, Dr Kabari noted.
Much of Bayelsa State, parts of Rivers State especially communities along the Orashi River, Delta coastal areas including Patani, Abala, Olodu, Ishagu, Ewulu, etc, were heavily impacted by this year’s flooding with little or no preparedness by both government and the people.
Dr Max Meju, a renowned world earth scientist summed up Nigeria’s flood experience thus:
“The main issues in Nigeria include lack of government policy on planning flood control and disaster management, lack of preparedness”.
He explained that increase in rainfall and poor drainage or guttering to cope with it cause flooding as well as increase in uncontrolled land deforestation.
The United Kingdom two-time Geophysicist of the Year also acknowledged as one of the world’s 10 best earth scientists said the best approach is to have a proper land use plan.
Said he, “Planning is the best form of prevention”, advising that Nigeria must put in place structures to control flooding”.
Dr Maxwell Meju, an Imperial College of London scholar and former associate professor at Lancaster University, UK is currently with Petronas, Malaysia.