By Samuel Oyadongha
APPREHENSION has enveloped residents of Otuokpoti in Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, following a sea surge that overran the community’s riverbank, causing a massive landslide as it swept land and property into the river.
Our source linked the occurrence in Otuokpoti, one of the few communities that the Chief Melford Obiene Okilo Old Rivers State administration (1979-1983) carried out shoreline protection, to indiscriminate dredging by sand dredgers approved by the state government.
The recent flood alert by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, HIHSA, of a more devastating flooding in the days ahead in some states, including Bayelsa, has also further heightened tension in the troubled community.
Before now, the community with its alluring and magnificent riverbanks had been the envy of other communities in the predominantly marshy and riverine state due to its greenery background.
Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, visited the community, penultimate Thursday, to assess the situation on ground.
Corroborating our finding, deputy paramount ruler of Otuokpoti, His Highness Bamy Okatubo, said: “The state government gave companies permission to dredge sand from our rivers and creeks, not minding the effect of erosion on the communities.
“These dredgers might have eroded the embankment done during the regime of late Chief Melford Okilo underwater and so affected the land, causing the landslide.
“We pray that God would touch the minds of the powers that be to remedy the situation before we find ourselves facing the scourge that we thought had been arrested forever.”
A concerned indigene, who simply identified himself as Macaulay, said: “What we are suffering today is partly self- inflicted. There is ongoing indiscriminate dredging of the river by sand merchants. No proper Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, survey was done before these dredgers were deployed in the area, thereby exposing our community to the danger of coastal erosion.”
Another resident, Andrew Enato, said: “Our once beautiful waterfront is gradually been eroded by tidal wave caused by the dredging vessels. The recent change in the rising water level has further compounded our woes.
“We are calling on both the state and federal governments to save our ancestral land from extinction by revisiting the damaged erosion control work done by the then Okilo administration when Bayelsa was part of the old Rivers State.”
Renowned environmentalist, Alagoa Morris, called on the state representatives at the national and state assemblies to make case on the floor of the House and Senate to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the ecological challenges facing the state.
He added: “The state government should ensure that proper EIA is done before any dredging activity is allowed within any community environment.
“This is with a view to preventing coastal erosion. Bayelsa State government should rise up to the occasion and protect our communities from coastal erosion.”