News Column

Flooding - Succour At Last for Disaster-Prone Ebonyi Communities

June 18, 2014

Peter Okutu

Disaster prone communities in Ebonyi State now have reason to heave a sigh of relief following the intervention initiative of the Federal Government through the World Bank supported Ebonyi State chapter of Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, which was officially launched at the Women Development Centre, Abakaliki, last weekend.

It could be recalled that during last year's rainy season that lasted between April and September , about 332,938 persons were displaced by flood in communities which cut across the 13 local government areas of the state.

Also, in the past few years, erosion and gullies arising from this seasonal flooding have increasingly caused untold adversity to the state, including loss of lives, sack of villages and offices, destruction of homes, farmlands and public infrastructure. Indeed studies showed that the total economic loss caused by flooding and erosion problems in the last five years in the state ran into billions of Naira, excluding loss of lives.

It is worthy to note that the emergence of NEWMAP came about as a result of the baseline survey of critical impact of erosion in Nigeria which showed that the South Eastern part of the country was in imminent danger. Gully erosion, it has been revealed, contributed to environmental degradation and other associated damages estimated at millions of dollars annually.

The Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP development objective, aims to reduce vulnerability to soil erosion in targeted sub-catchments. This eight-year innovative, multi-sectoral project will finance state-led interventions to prevent and reverse land degradation, initially focusing on gully erosion sites that threatened infrastructure and livelihoods in seven states: Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo. It will subsequently scale out to other states nationwide.

Speaking during the official launch of NEWMAP in the state and the entire South East geopolitical zone, Ebonyi State Governor, Martin Elechi, reiterated that the World Bank Nigeria office response to Federal Government's demand for grants to checkmate the challenges of gully erosion and environmental insecurity in the country was what gave rise to NEWMAP.

He said: "We are here today not only to officially flag-off this transformative NEWMAP intervention, but also to open a new chapter of expected development partnership with the World Bank. The launch today symbolises our compete resolve as affected and also benefiting state to deal with the menace of erosion and other environmental hazards in a concerted manner with the support of World Bank.

"At this juncture, let me use the opportunity of this flag-off to thank the World Bank for making available the sum of $2 million for the commencement of the projects in the state. I understand that the fund is replenishable on draw down for the sustainability of the programme.

"I have equally been briefed that out of five priority projects selected by our state, one is ready for procurement award while the remaining four will follow shortly."

In a remark, Ebonyi State NEWMAP Project Coordinator, Dr. Philip Echiegu expressed delight over the inauguration and establishment of NEWMAP in the state, adding that the development would go a long way to providing both immediate and future solutions to the problems posed by flooding and erosion across the state. The State Commissioner for Environment and Chairman, State Steering Committee, David Egbu thanked the state government for providing the enabling platform for the realisation of the project in the state.

"The state by its peculiarity faces this challenge in two major prongs: erosion and flood. The largely low lying nature of the soil and the predominantly shell formation in the north and central parts of the state, impair quick permeability of water and easy run off after rains, resulting to water logging and flooding. While the inherent characteristics of weak cemented sand grains predisposes the southern part to intense gully erosion. These hazards led to inestimable loss of lives and property".

The Task Team Leader, NEWMAP, Dr. Amos Abu enjoined all the benefiting states to ensure that they meet up with the qualification criteria so as to participate in investment activities provided by NEWMAP. "The participating states must qualify to benefit from NEWMAP investment activities. All participating states will be eligible to participate in institutional capacity and technical assistance activities, as these will contribute to meeting qualification criteria to participate in investment activities."

Reacting to the launch, the Chairman of Afikpo South local government area of the state, Ogbonnaya Orji expressed optimism that the launch of NEWMAP in the state would reverse the menace of erosion and flood and turn the erstwhile areas from sites of hazards to points of assets in the near future.

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Source: AllAfrica

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