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How to prevent flooding, by experts



Romanus Okoye

In the past several weeks, the nation has been awash with reports of heavy flooding ravaging different parts of the country. From state to state, floods have destroyed farmlands and entire communities, leading to loss of lives and property.

In May, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu had announced that at least 102 local government areas (LGA) in 28 states fall within the highly probable flood-risk areas. She said parts of 275 local government areas (LGAs) in the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), fall within the moderate areas.  

Indeed, many of the areas are already experiencing heavy flooding. In Kebbi and Jigawa states, there has been massive destruction of farmlands, roads and bridges and loss of lives. In Alapere, Ketu, Lagos, two children were swept away by torrential rainfall flood that lasted for hours and submerged many parts of the state. Some residents also suffered personal losses. 

In chats with the reporter, some experts evaluated the factors contributing to the flooding incidents, even as they suggested preventive measures. 

Professor Clifford Nwanna, an environmentalist and Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, noted that flooding is caused by coastal waters, like in the Delta regions and the South-East, and saturated drainage systems such as in Lagos. He noted that people in the riverine areas are mostly affected, as riverbanks overflow in the rainy season like it did in 2012, when the spillage of Rivers Benue and Niger reached a record high level of 12.84mm (42 feet).

The dean said policies and laws contained in Nigeria’s criminal and environmental laws are commendable but said weak enforcement of relevant laws has not helped matters. He therefore advocated more stringent enforcement of the extant laws and establishment of environmental courts for speedy handling of environmental-related offences. 

Professor Nwanna said corruption among government agencies in charge of environmental protection is a challenge. He said though there is no permanent solution to flooding, effective measures such as creating and clearing existing drainages, canals and vegetations will go a long way in reducing the impact. 

According to him, dredging of the River Niger will create room to accommodate more water, but will as well improve the nation’s water transportation, inter cultural trade and socio- economic activities. 

“New land developments along the river, deforestation, dumping refuse in the street, poor town planning etc should be discouraged,” he urged. “Government environmental agencies should step up their responsibility of giving early warning signs about impending flood so that the inhabitants could move to higher ground.”

A surveyor, Lady Angela Kesiena Etuonovbe, said causes of flooding in Nigeria could be natural or manmade. According to her, the natural causes could be in the form of heavy or torrential rains or rainstorm, oceans storms and tidal waves usually along the coast while the human causes could range from mere bust water pipes to busted dams or spills. 

Mrs Etuonovbe, who is the first female surveyor in private practice in Delta State, classified types of flooding.

“They include urban flooding which occurs in towns located on flat or low lying terrain especially where little or no provision has been made for surface drainage, or where existing drainage has been blocked with municipal waste, refuse and eroded soil sediments.”

She said extensive urban flooding is a phenomenon of every rainy session especially in Lagos, Maiduguri, Aba, Warri, Benin and Ibadan. “Every rainy season, wind gusts arising from tropical storms claim lives and property worth million of naira across the country. Flash floods from torrential rains wash away thousands of hectares of farmland. Dam bursts are common following such flood,” she noted.

To mitigate the destructive effects of flood, Etuonovbe advised: “When looking for plots of land for building, find out if the area suffers from floods often and the level of the previous highest flood. Check if there are dams up or close to where you want to build or live.”

She said expert advice must be sought and canvassed the use of appropriate building materials.

“As a responsible citizen, you should help to construct drains and ditches or embankments to protect buildings, constructions and utilities. Never put refuse or solid materials in drains, and discourage others from doing so. Always help to clean gutters or drains and encourage others to do same. Identify a higher place where you can run to during floods. Don’t remove plants or trees unnecessarily, and help to replant burnt or cleared forests,” she said.

She advised the state and federal governments to constantly monitor the risk of flooding, urging them to find a means of measuring or checking water levels of rivers, streams and dams. 

“Set up effective information or warning systems and centres for the population, especially against dam burst. Issue and strictly enforce regulations banning buildings in flood-prone zones. Build infrastructure which will prevent or limit floods,” she counselled governments.

A school teacher, Mrs Juliana Udenze whose husband is into fish, poultry and animal farming in Anambra West area of Anambra State, said the flooding gives people in the area sleepless nights.

Her words: “In 2012, we started the business with every kobo we had,” she said. “Without warning, that year’s flood submerged our farm, destroyed everything before they were mature for harvest. We learnt very bitter lessons. It was very devastating.

“What we do now is to bring the fishes inside our house on the ground floor when the flood fills everywhere. We lock the doors and windows, with little openings enough to give them food. We also take the grass-cutters upstairs in cabins.”

Ogbuevi Obugo James, a farmer in Ogbaru, Anambra State, also said: “At the beginning of farming season, we usually pray for enough rain to help our crops grow. But it usually rains late. Now, we have planted and the flood will not give the crops enough time to mature before normal harvest. It forces us to harvest them prematurely, wasting a whole year’s enterprise. It’s really sad.”

Another farmer, Okonkwo Felix, lamented: “What we spend after the flood recedes is much, especially in terms of replacing houses destroyed. That is our major fear when heavy flooding is predicted. In the days of our forefathers, it was not this bad. Apart from destroying our homes, it forces us to harvest our farm produce all at the same time, thereby forcing us to supply more than the markets demand. We put in much effort but sell the produce too cheap, not realising enough to cover the cost of production not to talk of gain.´

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) said it had developed a new flood mobile app which can be used by individuals, disaster managers and policy makers for overall disaster-risk management and monitoring of daily flood situations anywhere in the country.  

The Director General, NIHSA, Clement Onyeaso Nze, restated the need for continuous clearing of waterways, coordinated dams and reservoirs operations, among other things, to ensure the free flow of water in rivers and drainages.

He said: “The mobile app is created to be of practical value to the water managers and the flood forecasting community for flood prevention and enhancement of flood early warning system in Nigeria,” he said.

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