By Emeka Chiakwelu firstname.lastname@example.org
The ecological disaster confronting south eastern Nigeria especially Anambra State, the massive erosion coupled with disastrous gullies and ephemeral soil surface shift needs and requires immediate attention. The reality of ecological disasters in Nigeria including desert encroachment in northern Nigeria and now in erosion gullies in eastern Nigeria requires fundamental paradigm shift in the way Nigeria treats her ecological and environmental system. One thing for sure, Nigeria takes her environment and ecology for granted, occupying a landscape without adequate planning for maintaining a sustainable green environment, is the core vulnerability of the managers of south eastern Nigeria.
On the appeal of the five south eastern governors led by Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state, the Federal government of President Umaru Yar’dua declared the ecological land mass of the region an ecological disaster zone. By this declaration the federal government will fund the remediation project by coming to the aid and rescue of the battered states of the region. This is the way the course supposes to take, but the federal government is bedeviled with red tape and incompetence. One thing is to declare a disaster zone, another is to marshal the requisite resources to combat and ameliorate the situation. It has not been easy for other areas of Nigerian land mass suffering from other forms of ecosystem calamity including desert encroachment, therefore the governors cannot afford to wait for the federal government forever.
Although, these governors are scrap of funds but there are still minimal steps they can take as they wait for fund from the center. Most of the high powered meetings held by the governors among themselves and sometimes with the legislators from the region are mostly political and not balanced. By balanced summit, it implies the broadening the scope of the meetings to connote ecological and environmental experts, financial experts and philanthropists – all these people from diverse walks of life will evaluate all aspects of the project for curbing the ecological disaster with seasoned expertise, unsullied ideas and common sense rooted in experience and competence. For arresting this ecological disaster is too important to be left in the hands of neophytes and bureaucrats.
The citizens of the region and its leadership must act fast and take up this challenge squarely without not transferring responsibility and pointing fingers to anybody or institution. They complain about lack of funds, while it cannot be discarded nor disputed, the most intrinsic issue and significant thing is the will power. Even with the meager fund at hand, something reasonable can be initiated and be commenced especially in the short term. But by no means, this is not to abrogate the federal government from its commitment and responsibility but to alert the governors on the propinquity of the situation.
The erosion gullies have the potential of claiming about two third of Anambra state in the next ten years and this development desperately seeks immediate attention and long term strategy to stop the encroachment. The perennial risk with erosion gully is its irreversible ‘personality’ and propensity: Once it took hold, it becomes a losing battle to reverse the landslides and the degradation.
There must be short and long term strategies to trounce erosion gullies, a blueprint strategy with comprehensive standard operation procedure. The idea is to put a stop to the progressive ecological disaster at the moment, while laying down the road map to the total arrest of future occurrences of erosion gullies. Nature can be dominated and the forces of nature channel to more affirmative usage and consumption, therefore with a circling strategy we can stop the disaster and fabricate the bulwark to deter the raging force of erosion.
For some time, the leadership of states in south eastern Nigeria have neglected their basic responsibilities of doing something tangible to deter erosion gullies. So with the interim destruction of the landscape of the region, an immediate action must be implemented to arrest the situation. Series of meeting among the governors must be leverage to immediate action, but too much talking without action is a wasted time.
The governors and the responsible bureaucrats must set up Ad havoc panel to tackle the problem immediately with the funds at hand, while they are waiting for funding from the federal government.
Stabilizing the erosion gullies at the moment is the best possible reaction to this ugly situation. "The object is to divert and modify the flow of water moving into and through the gully so that scouring is reduced, sediment accumulates and revegetation can proceed. Stabilizing the gully head is important to prevent damaging water flow and headward erosion. A variety of options can be used to get the water safely from the natural level to the gully floor. Improvements like grass chutes, pipe structures, rock chutes or drop structures can be installed to do this effectively. Structures might also be required along gully floors since some grades can be quite steep and allow water to rush down under peak flows, ripping away soil and vegetation. These may take the form of rock barrages, wire netting or logs across gullies. Sediments held in the water will then be deposited along the flatter grades as a result of slower water flow, allowing vegetation to re-establish."
After stabilizing the erosion gullies, a joint committee from all the south eastern government will be set up. The committee will comprise of the state governors, environmental experts and financial managers. The committee will come up with a everlasting prevention strategy: Prevention is better than cure.
Application of Nnobi Re-vegetation strategy
Nnobi is a town in Idemili local government, that was bedeviled with erosion gullies and this become menace to the community. The farms, roads and residential areas were being claimed by this devastating erosion gullies. The Nnobi community used re-vegetation and reforestation to reclaim and control the gullies in their community. They planted cashew tress and the roots of the tress becomes a cohesion that held the soil in tact with lest permeable membrane.Others including: "Strategies for preventing gully erosion include:
maintaining remnant vegetation along drainage lines and eliminating grazing from these areas
increasing water usage by planting deep-rooted perennial pastures, trees, or an appropriate mixture of both thus maintaining healthy, vigorous levels of vegetation.
identifying drainage lines as a separate land class in which vegetation needs to be protected
immediate stabilization of sheet or rill erosion
ensuring run-off from tracks is evenly distributed across paddocks ton dissipate its energy
maintaining high levels of organic matter in the soil
avoiding excessive cultivation."
Education and Awareness
A media campaign will be initiated and implemented by the government to educate the citizens on their role in curbing and controlling erosion: Sowing grasses and planting tresses in their residential compounds can be beneficial in controlling the damages of erosion. Citizens should be encouraged to have cemented floor and pavements in order to minimize the storm water exposure to the fragile ephemeral soil. Urban planning and estate surveying are tools to be applied in commercial and residential houses construction in order to avoid building them on the soil surface vulnerable to erosion gullies.
With these strategies the government and the people of south eastern Nigeria will finally tame and check erosion gullies for good. But our governors MUST ACT NOW lest the situation overwhelm them. Let us get to work!
Mr. Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal policy strategist at Afripol. Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org