Izuchukwu Onwughara, the Abia Coordinator, Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), said on Wednesday that over 279 erosion sites in the state were currently receiving attention.
Onwughara made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Aba. He spoke against the backdrop of a litany of complaints by erosion-ravaged communities that the agency received reports of their plight but declined to act.
He said that contrary to the complaints, the agency was always at work but had to follow operational procedures.
He explained that the process of initiating projects, which determined where priorities were placed, gave the wrong impression that NEWMAP was doing nothing regarding people’s complaints.
Onwughara said: “The process through which we operate determines how fast we react or respond.
“Before these reports you mentioned, from Ogbor Hill in Aba to Ebem Ohafia to Isuikwuato and so on, as a government agency, we have done a detailed study to map out those sites in Abia for intervention.
“To be very conservative, there are about 279 identified sites and we’ve seen those sites and a good number of them has received attention up to certain levels but what the people did not know is that such works are ongoing.
“They judge us to be intervening only when they see equipment coming to sites.
“Isuikwuato, Ogudu-Asa, Uturu and those ones on the road between Akara and the Abia State University, Uturu, the design we’ve made has been approved by the World Bank.
“Any moment from now, we shall be placing adverts to engage contractors that will execute the work. So, people may not know but we are busy,’’ he said.
Onwughara said that erosion sites at Ogudu Asaa, Igbere, Ebem Ohafia, Uduma Awoke, Elu Ohafia, and the one between Abiriba and Ohafia, were receiving attention under what he called the “Ohafia complex”.
According to him, the agency gets reports, verifies and then present them to the governor who chooses 10 sites needing urgent attention each year and then instructs the agency to act.
“It is after the governor had made choices that the agency engages experts and work on the site begins.
“The preparation of detailed designs that meet world standard and the transparent process of engaging contractors result in delays we would have loved to avoid.
“So, when we are aware and prioritise, we do our work gradually. We are not a sudden intervention agency.
“We do not run to site the moment any community cries. When communities don’t see us, it doesn’t mean we’re idle,’’ Onwughara said.
He said that the agency was receiving funding from the World Bank and not the Ecological Fund.
NEWMAP is a World Bank-assisted initiative, collaborating with the Federal Government to address gully erosion in the South-East and land degradation in the North.