Climate change: Deflooding and desilting Delta’s coastal communities

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By Judith Ufford, Features Editor

WHEN Delta State commissioner for environment, Mr. Frank Omare, called to say he had a de-flooding road show to perform, I almost did not take him serious. What, I wondered, is so special about deflooding a coastal area like Delta when other coastal areas in the country are carrying out such similar tasks without a hue and cry.

Seeing they say is believing. If the State government  had not embarked on the the various deflooding projects such as construction of drainages, clearing of refuse from canals and water ways as well as desilting this, the people of Delta state would have suffered the worst flooding ever this year.

So from Ughelli to Warri south, Uvwie local government area, Sapele and Asaba, it’s a huge construction site to rain in the raging floods. According to  Mr. Omare, deflooding efforts are ongoing in the nine satellite cities in the state. Speaking on the Ughelli effort, he observed thus: “Once we are through with the drainage projects in Ughelli, the flooding problem in the town would be permanently solved.”

The chairman of EFEMAZ Construction & Enginerring, Mr. Efe-Michael Udumebraye, one of the contractors handling the Ughelli project was equally optimistic of dealing with flooding in the area once the work is completed next year. Said he: “so far, we’ve been working assiduously in harmony with the people in this community unlike what obtains in other places. Youth unrest was not uncommon here, but when we started the project, we were able to solicit their cooperation and understanding. That accounts for the modest success we have recorded in the drainage channels and waterways. So far, we have done about 60 percent of the job. But the major challenge we have now is the issue of awareness among the indigenes.”

He was referring to the problem of residents who now use the drainage as a refuse site. Residents in the area commended the state government’s de-flooding efforts. According to residents, their houses were usually flooded and some were submerged before this project began. Today, the story is different. We’ve been particularly relieved this rainy season,” a female resident in the neighbour said.  At Urvwie local government, Mr.Omare noted that the State government had done above three kilometres drainage so far.

“The whole Urvwie was flooded before government’s intervention. The project is about N1.9bn (both Urvwie and Warri south), and we have paid over 50 percent. Work so far has reached close to 60 percent but we have identified more areas of intervention especially in the Warri area. The entire cost of the project that is both Ughelli, Warri south and Urvwie is a little over N3bn.”

Continuing, he noted that at Ogboloposu-alepo, the work is being professionally done such that when it’s completed, the flow of water would be wonderful. “Even as it is now, the people are already feeling the positive impact of the intervention. The work may be slow, but our objective is to do quality job. We don’t want to do any review work after the project is completed. Once we’re done, it’s over.

“We know our people are suffering as a result of this flooding challenge, but we’re not in a rush to execute this project poorly and then come back to do it all over again. I know people may complain, but I insist that we cannot do a project of N1 bn as the original contract award and two months later do a review of N800m. That is not the wish of my governor. The job execution may be slow, but we want to get it fight once and for all,” Omare explained at length.

Houses built on waterways
Butressing Omare’s agreement, the Head of Personnel Management (HPM), Sapele Local government area, Comrade Olumomi Oyibo, said it was when the opening of the drains began  that residents  discovered for the first time  that a lot of the houses were built on  waterways especially in areas like Awolowo, Akintola streets, Mechanic village, Ajokolo and Ajele village which is connected to River Ethiope.

The second stage of implementation according to the Commissioner is the bill the State governor is sending to the House of Assembly on the need for good public behaviour; for people to have a change of attitude towards environmental issues. “As a government, we’re ready to enforce the law without fear or favour. In the next two months, the law will take effect,” he informed.

The various canals in the state particularly in the areas visited had been cleared to make way for the free flow of water. According to Commissioner Omare, what is left enbarkments in all the canal area and provision has been made for this in the 2013 budget he informed.

In spite of all the efforts at deflooding, a major challenge starring the State government in the face is that of proper and adequate waste disposal. From Ughelli to Effurun to Warri to Sapele is one sad tale of refuse floating in the drainage and canals as well as dotting the streets in that ugly and unwelcoming fashion.

One did not hestiate to let Omare know this. The Efemaz boss was first to respond to this. According to him, part of the project in Ughelli is the provision of 100 major bust bins and a truck for immediate and daily evacuation of refuse. He disclosed that his company would work with the local government authority to ensure the issue of waste management is improved.

Omare was optimistic that once the bill sent by the governor is signed into law, those who make the canals and water ways refuse dump sites would have to contend with the long arm of the law. “The truth is that every Deltan is a lawyer but we’re not intimated by this. Since our resources are slim, we’re struggling to ensure that it’s done properly. This is the first stage.  The second is enforcement and we would do this without fear or favour.”

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