Operation Green Parrot - Newsreel

 

 Catastrophic Collapse of Ekwulobia Gully Channel

Less than one year since WIEF documented extensive structural failures at the remediation project going on in Umuchiana Ekwulobia gully, a catastrophic collapse of the inlet drainage channel occurred on May 6, 2009 after a heavy downpour in the area. The collapse, which occurred very close to the gully head initially, has now put rest of the structures built downstream to contain and stop this monstrous gully from its rapid expansion course under great jeopardy.

The Executive Director of WIEF Nigeria, Dr. Odili Ojukwu and the WIEF Director of Operations for Anambra state, Eng. Joseph Ofojebe, rushed to the site, in company of news correspondents, to inspect the emergent disaster and to assess the situation firsthand. The Umuchiana Ekwulobia remediation project is the key environmental project being undertaken by the Anambra state government to stem the sudden advance of a finger of the gully complex which extends from Aguata to Anaocha and Idemili North and South local governments. In September 2006, this gully suddenly surged and severed the federal highway that links that part of southern Anambra state to northern part of Imo state at Ibinta junction. Engineering work done, so far, to tame the gully in the past two years has gulped hundreds of millions of naira.

 

Dr. Odili Ojukwu 

 

 

 

 

 

Very poorly reinforced concrete channel, in foreground, broke off and collapsed after loose foundation base beneath was undermined and washed away by torrents of storm water entering the gully head 

 

 

 

The government contracting company which built the initial structures that are now collapsing, Achimore, has since been replaced by another one. The assessment of the WIEF team is that the current engineering company's design and construction technique are much better than what used to be. The problem, however, is that dismantling and reconstructing the sections already done by the previous contractor is not included in job delineation of the new one handling the project. As seen in the photos above, concrete castings by Achimore engineers were reinforced with mere mesh wire rather than construction-grade steel rods. Furthermore, the foundation upon which the broken drainage channels were based is extremely weak. This area was filled in December 2006 with loose lateritic soil which was never compacted by the initial contracting company. This refilled portion of the gully head is, therefore, still settling with each soaking rainfall and would likely continue to do so for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Settling in the support foundation of concrete drainage channel leads to breakup of very poorly reinforced slabs and eventual collapse of the entire structure as shown in this photo.

 

 

 

 

 

The fate of work being implemented by the current contracting company handling the gully remediation project remains uncertain because of what has already been done at the site before it took over. During discussions between the new contracting company's spokesperson and the WIEF team, it became clear that the work  done by the initial contractor, Achimore, was not only very inferior but also it has made future work at the gully site more complicated. Continuing to build upon a weak and faulty foundation already put in place could mean that, in the near future, everything shall come crashing down. The other option of undoing and redoing sections already "completed" by Achimore shall make cost of entire project so prohibitive that it may never be finished in the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is clearly evident in these photos, the collapse at the Umuchiana gully project was both extensive and catastrophic. Nothing appears to be salvageable at this juncture. 

 

 

 

As far as getting a handle on the threat posed by the rapidly expanding Umuchiana Ekwulobia erosion gully is concerned, It would appear that the past two years have been a total waste. There are major failures at two ends of the problem. Nothing has been done or put in place to reduce the quantity of storm-water volume that arrives at the Umuchiana gully head, on the one hand and on the other hand, the remediation work done to stabilize the gully floor since past two years has now suffered a catastrophic collapse. We are, therefore, back to square one or even worse. Getting a handle on the situation shall require removing the entire collapsed drainage channel and redesigning the system all over again from scratch.

When WIEF made its initial on-site inspection in early stage of the Umuchiana gully remediation project in late December 2006, it sounded an alarm regarding what was going on at the time and predicted exactly what has now happened two and half years later. Another detailed report about imminent structural failure at the state-funded construction project was again made by WIEF in May 2008. Did anyone listen then? Of course, not. Now, we have a total mess in our hands after flushing hundreds of millions of naira of hard-to-come-by public funds down the gully. Is anyone willing now to admit responsibility for this catastrophic failure? More important, what can be done, in the immediate future, to assure that collapse of the drainage channel at the gully floor does not trigger a resumption of uphill advance of the gully head to sever the rebuilt federal highway as well as swallow more farmland and buildings as the rainy season picks up a head steam?

Who shall answer these crucial questions and how soon shall answers be forthcoming?

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is still very early in this year's rainy season and the channel built to protect the gully floor has already been rendered useless. Only heaven knows what lies ahead. 

 

 

 

 

 

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