Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State has raised the alarm over threatening erosion in the state. He also called on the Federal Government and development partners to assist the state in combating the ecological disaster, which has threatened between 30 and 40 per cent of the state’s land mass.
After a meeting with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on the issue, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the governor lamented that the state’s entire budget for 10 years would not be enough to address the environmental challenge. According to him, aside from insecurity, soil erosion is the number one existential threat in the state.
Anambra State ranks 35th in the country with a land mass of 4,844 square km. Lagos State ranks 36th and the least with 3,345 square km. However, Lagos has reclaimed some land from the sea on account of being a coastal state. With the threatening erosion put at between 30 and 40 per cent, many indigenes of Anambra State will soon be landless if the disaster is not quickly checked.
During the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970, the area known as Anambra State today constituted a major theatre of the war. Apart from human casualties, the brutal war wreaked untold havoc and violence on the environment and that might be contributory to the erosion menace threatening the topography of the state. However, human activities and climate change factors must have exacerbated the ecological tragedy. The worst erosion sites in Anambra State include Agulu, Nanka, Adazi-Nnukwu, Oko, Ozubulu, Nnewi Ichi, Onitsha, Oba and others. The menace is even expanding to other adjacent towns.
Other theatres of the war in the region are yet to recover from the environmental devastation occasioned by the war. Although all the states in the South East region are affected by erosion, Anambra State is apparently the worst hit. About 10 states in the South East, South South and South West regions are threatened by over 3,500 erosion sites. Apart from the five South East states, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Ogun and Ondo states are also affected.
According to World Igbo Environmental Foundation (WIFE), the South East region has over 2,800 active erosion sites. Out of this staggering number, Anambra State accounted for 1,000 active erosion sites, Imo 300, Abia 500, Enugu and Ebonyi 500, respectively. There are concerns that the menace may displace many communities in the region from their ancestral homes if it is not controlled.
The South East is the most affected region by soil erosion. Gully erosion is more pronounced during the rainy season. It is also worsened by land excavation and blocking of water channels. Available data on erosion showed that gullies and areas exposed to erosion in the South East tripled from about 1.33 per cent (1,021square km) in 1976 to about 3,7 per cent (2,820 square km) in 2006.
Human activities, rainfall, inherent geology, undulating topography, and soil nature have been indentified by experts as major causes of soil erosion across the country. Some of the control measures include tree planting, proper soil and water conservation policies and others.
In view of the magnitude of the problem, the Federal Government should treat soil erosion in the South East as a national emergency and give it the deserving attention. The problem is far beyond the resources of states to solve as explained by Soludo. The Federal Government should dedicate special funds for combating soil erosion in Anambra and other affected states. Similarly, development partners are called upon to help Anambra and other states in the South East region to wage a relentless war against ecological disasters.
The Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), a World Bank assisted project to address the nation’s gully erosion crisis in the South East and land degradation in the North, can still be reactivated if it has elapsed.
While erosion is a big threat to human existence, the good news is that it is preventable and can equally be controlled. Based on the seriousness of the mater, we call on Anambra and other affected states to pay more attention to erosion control measures to check the menace. They must envisage workable plans to protect the environment. There must be adequate arrangement to control perennial flood.