From Okwe Obi, Abuja
The devastating incidence of flooding across Nigeria has propelled the Federal Government and environmentalists into finding solutions to the disaster.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had reported that over 210 local governments in 32 states recorded severe flooding that led to loss of lives and destruction of valuables in the first quarter of the year.
“There have been reported cases of flooding in 210 local government areas in 32 states and Federal Capital Territory, with attendant loss of lives, livelihoods and properties,” NEMA director-general, Mustapha Ahmed, said.
Even after the report, Trademore Estate in Lugbe, in the FCT, Abuja, was submerged and three persons died, including a top security officer.
Aside from sympathising with flood victims, the executive secretary of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof. Garba Sharubutu, who spoke in Abuja at a workshop organised by the Blue Initiative for Urban Flood Resilience in Nigeria, sponsored by the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, said the deliberation would enable experts weave ideas on how to address the problem.
He said: “The evidence of climate change is all around us. Three people died in Trademore Estate, along Airport Road, here in Abuja, due to the flood incident last week, precisely Sunday night on 12th/13th of September.
“It is long overdue that we expedite solutions that are sustainable and make our cities and towns resilient to these kinds of costly environmental problems.
“Here we have the research consortium at the University of Nottingham in collaboration with other organisations developed a new initiative, the Blue-Green Cities, that we in Nigeria can leverage on to sustainably manage our environment through partnerships and collaborations.
“Several public and private organisations, including NGOs, are working in different areas such as academia, hydrological services, environmental protection, space research, estate developers, water managers, and disaster management.”
While dissecting the causes of flooding, professor of morphology, Ishaku Yari Mallo, in his presentation, linked open disposal of solid waste in drains, poorly constructed generating structure, dumping of waste in drains, weak institutional structure and poor management of urban planning policies to the problem.
Mallo further identified military political urbanization, poor quality control, abuse of master plan, indiscriminate dumping of linear low density polythene, hard density polyethylene and lack of greenbelts to allow water infiltrate naturally into the ground, as other causes of flooding.
He said: “The major factor in the generation of runoff or overland flow is the occurrence of rainfall. However, where runoff is professionally controlled through well built underground drains or well constructed wide and deep surface drains, flood will not take place.
“So, poor planning and not necessary the amount of rainfall received is one of the causes of flood occurrences in Nigerian cities.
“Nigeria is a country that is dissected by many rivers, streams and rivulets. The economic allurements of streams and rivers for fishing, irrigation, domestic water supply, recreation exercises like boating and so on attracts Nigerians to encroach and settle near streams or rivers.
“People settle on the flood plains, which are vulnerable to flood, forgetting that such areas are liable to inundation. In many of such settlements, flooding may not take place for many years but in very wet years people’s houses get flooded, leading to severe damage to life and property.
“Currently, weather patterns have changed, featuring downpours of rain unprecedented in the past. Coastal areas are getting more flooded primarily due to rising sea levels.”
Corroborating Prof. Mallo’s point on the major cause of indiscriminate waste disposal, a director with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Umar Ibrahim, stated that the administration expended about N412 million monthly on waste disposal to clear drainage and waterways.
However, Prof. Colin Throne, from the University of Nottingham, called on the Federal Government to be deliberate and prompt in its efforts, as the country appears bleak.
Thorne, who spoke virtually, encouraged government to adopt the Blue-Green Infrastructure to effectively manage water for city resilience to water-related risk/hazards (BGCN,ARUP and SIWI).
According to him, government should further consider enhanced planning policy, sustained urban growth and development, improved public health and well-being, and widened stakeholder engagement in cities.
He admitted that the processes would be a bit stressful for Nigeria, but the task of building flood-resistant cities has been done by China, Poland, Oregon and Newcastle, and challenged elected representatives to summon the courage to give it a shot.
“We believe that Nigeria is building cities for the future like Abuja whose velocity envisages a new nation’s capital by providing green and liveable urban environment fit for the 21st century.
“We believe that the knowledge gained through the blue-green research consortium can be delivered to help Abuja and other Nigerian cities become resilient to flood and drought, and also have air quality, soil quality, public amenities and public health.
“So, we want to exchange knowledge and information with experts in Nigeria to make accessible new research that is being perform in the United Kingdom.”
Disclosing the outcomes of the blue-green initiative, Thorne said: “The research looked at city planning and design, and engineering can be transformed to manage water and waste water.
“What we discovered was that engineering is very well known, but the uptake of the new technology, which we call the blue-green infrastructure, will rely entire on concrete and pipes and ditches.
“We partnered with natural processes of infiltration of water flow not only to make it a more pleasant city environment, but a much safer one.
“We know how to do it. But it is not being done. What our research shows is the lack of understanding and education, and perhaps, above all, reluctance of people to be innovative, to embrace and try new solutions, instead of continuing to use the old solutions from the 20th century that are not fit for the 21st century.
“So, our message is that innovative methods exist. We must have the courage and the vision to use them.
“The challenges are very serious, but I think the intention of the Nigerian people to overcome those challenges is immense. So, I am very optimistic that Nigeria can build good cities in the 21st century. Cities that are resilient to climate change, pleasant and healthy places to live in.”
Shedding more light on ecosystem-based solutions in his findings, he said: “What we have developed in our research is that when a systemic approach of urban drainage and water management is devised by the engineer, it can be delivered in practise by the planners and elected representatives of the people. So, it has been done in Poland, Oregon, China, Newcastle and England.
“But what we discovered is that we absolutely have to have a unanimous view, a shared vision of what the cities can be.
“Although the future looks quite bleak because of climate change, increased flooding, because drought is becoming more severe, but the one thing that is good about the future is that we can change it and we can change it by making sound decisions and by acting through collaboration and cooperation.”
Meanwhile, NEMA recently embarked on distribution of agricultural inputs to 2,463 farmers affected by flooding in the South West.
Some of the distributed items included pesticides, herbicides, yam seeds, and growth enhancer.
The agency’s boss, Mustapha Ahmed, who spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, said the exercise was in fulfilment of Federal Government’s commitment to assist farmers who were victims of the disaster in 2020.
Ahmed explained that Ogun was chosen as the pilot state in the South West due to its strides in agriculture and other sectors of the economy.
According to him, the development would transform the beneficiaries’ production into sustainable business ventures. He urged them to make good use of the inputs.
Similarly, the Ogun State Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Barr. Femi Ogunbanwo, said the state government had made efforts to ensure that victims of any disaster receive prompt attention, pledging that they would sustain the cordial relationship between the state government and NEMA.
Ogunbanwo, who assured residents that all forms of agricultural engagements would be strengthened, urged the beneficiaries to judiciously utilise the inputs so as to improve food sufficiency in the state and the nation as a whole.
Earlier, the director of Ogun State Emergency Management Agency, Olufolarin Ige, promised that the relief packages would get to the appropriate quarters, particularly residents in the rural areas.