By John Oghojafor
Going by the weather forecast of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), the rest of August and September 2017 is likely to witness heavier rainfalls and incidences of flooded areas across the country, especially among the coastal states, the Delta State government had made preparation, not only to address the adverse effect of the expected flood, but also to provide a permanent solution where possible. The New Diplomat examines the actions taken so far by the state government to mitigate against the environmental menace.
It would be recalled that the past few months have been hectic following the massive flooding of different parts of the state including areas that were not affected by the 2012 unprecedented flooding that wrecked havoc with its attendant colossal losses.
However, rising to the occasion against the backdrop of NiMet’s warning earlier in the year, the state government had earlier in the year put in place a multi-faceted approach to tackle the expected flood.
This, The New Diplomat gathered, included the massive deployment of men and machines to areas susceptible to flooding. For the purpose of effective supervision, the government, it was learnt, assigned the rest of the state to the Ministry of Environment under the Commissioner, Barr. John Nani, while the state capital, Asaba, with its peculiar environmental problem, was assigned to the Director General of Special Programmes under Mr. Frank Omare.
The New Diplomat’s crew that has been involved in an independent monitoring of the government’s effort towards tackling the flood menace can authoritatively report that there have been some positive results in spite of seeming financial constraints. Even before the heavy rains started sometime in March, the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Barr. Nani deployed a full team of staff and machines to Isheagu in Aniocha South Local Government Area of the state, a community that has been ravaged by flood annually. And to address the menace permanently, the Ministry of Environment team dredged a artificial 10 kilometer canal to take flood water from the community to nearby Iyeti river, thus resolving an environmental challenge that has impacted on the area for decades.
First to fall for the menacing flood of the season in Delta Central was Ughelli town in Ughelli North Local Government Area where several houses were submerged off Upper Agbarho area of the town. The Ministry of Environment quickly mobilized its machines and men to open up natural waterways and blocked drains to create free flow of water away from the town.
Other areas affected by the rain-induced flooding in the Local Government Area include Agbarho and some parts of Agbarha-Otor. One of the Commissioner’s team was also mobilized to Agbarho where major natural waterways were opened and linked to the river.
Simultaneously, another team was stationed at Effurun/Warri axis to de-silt some of the major canals as it was done in 2012, thus checkmating the effect of the heavy downpour before it could do any form of harm. These efforts resulted in huge success as Effurun and its environs.
At Sapele, the Ministry of Environment had to also create artificial canals while expanding and dredging existing natural waterways to release water into River Ethiope and other adjoining rivers in the town. A master-piece deep concrete drainage that was recently constructed at the Adeola-New Road junction, by the state government facilitated by the State PDP chairman, Olorogun Barr. Kingsley Esiso has helped greatly to de-flood that section of the town.
Just while the Commissioner, Mr. Nani was heaving a sigh of relief in tackling Ughelli, Sapele, Agbarho, Effurun and Warri challenges, the heavy rains continued and it its wake, Oghara, the home of former governor of the state, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, Jesse the home of the Honourable Commissioner for Environment, John Nani and Aghalokpe in Okpe Local Government Area fell to the rampaging flood. While chatting with the Honourable Commissioner in Sapele when he received the report of the flood in Oghara and Aghalokpe, he disclosed that he had to hurry to Asaba to seek an approval from the governor to enable him mobilize men and equipment to tackle the flooding which has led to the relocation of several families as well as destruction of houses and farmland in the affected areas.
When The New Diplomat’s crew visited Aghalokpe, it was observed that over a hundred families whose homes were submerged by the flood had relocated to other parts of the town to take refuge with their relations while some of the houses had been destroyed. The Commissioner however quickly mobilized a Swamp buggy machine to the town with a crew and it succeeded in creating an artificial canal of almost half a kilometer that helped to decongest the flooded area.
In a chat with the Councillor representing the Aghalokpe ward, Hon. Victor Okotete, he commended the state government for responding promptly to the plight of the people of Aghalokpe, adding that with the creation of the canal, a 27 years old flooding problem has been solved finally.
He said: “The flood has come down considerably. The government has tried. A flood problem of 27 years is almost being completely solved. At least, this is part of my constituency project. I have written to thank Governor Okowa and the Commissioner for Environment, Hon. John Nani for the prompt attention to Aghalokpe flood problem.”
At Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area, the flood took a more monstrous dimension as two natural lakes that used to absorb much of rain water in the town overflowed their banks and vomited their contents back to the people homes and farms. While those whose houses were submerged were wailing, some others had a field day catching fishes in flooded roads and houses.
Responding to an SOS, the Commissioner for Environment quickly mobilized two swam boggies to the town to open up natural waterways and blocked drainages. A section of the former governor’s premises was affected by the flood while hundreds of people relocated away from their flooded houses.
In a chat with the Local Government Chairman, Hon. Solomon Golley who was on ground to supervise the dredging of a more than one kilometer artificial canal through the Pamol Rubber Plantation to the River, he disclosed that it was the first time for the lakes to overflow their banks and create the type of flooding being witnessed in the town this year, adding that the artificial canal when completed would have put paid to the problem.
Tried as much as the government had, there is still more to be done as could be seen in Ughelli South Local Government Area where so many communities are still under water. For example, Okwagbe, Ekakpamre, Effurun-Otor, Ewu, Otu-jeremi, among other communities in Ughelli South are still suffering under the weight of the rampaging flood. In a chat with the Honourable Commissioner, Hon. Nani, he told The New Diplomat that he has gone for on the spot assessment of the affected areas and would soon mobilized to address the problem.
At the Asaba axis, our team confirmed that the Director General of Special Programme, Mr. Frank Omare is attacking the Capital City perennial flood problem headlong.
The Ministry is also at work in other parts of the state where flooding has taken place and the general consensus is that with the pre-emptive and proactive approach of the government, NiMets prediction of heavier rains and flooding may materialize but with minimal impact on Delta State.