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By Emeka Chiakwelu

The ecological disaster confronting south eastern Nigeria, particularly Anambra State, and the massive erosion coupled with disastrous gullies and ephemeral soil surface shift need and require immediate attention! The reality of ecological disasters in Nigeria - desert encroachment in northern Nigeria and erosion gullies in eastern Nigeria, requires fundamental paradigm shift in the way Nigeria treats her ecological system. One thing for sure, Nigeria takes her environment and ecology for granted, occupying a landscape without adequate planning for maintaining a sustainable green environment. This has however, constituted a major nightmare to the managers of south eastern Nigeria.

On the appeal of the five south eastern governors led by Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state to federal government, President Umaru Yar’Adua did declare the ecological land mass of the region ‘a disaster zone'. By this declaration, the federal government will fund the remediation project by coming to the aid and rescue of the battered states of the region. Ordinarily, this is the way the course supposes to take, but the federal government is bedeviled with red tape. One thing is to declare a zone, ˜a disaster zone', another thing is to speedily release the requisite resources to combat and ameliorate the situation. It has not been easy for other areas of Nigerian land mass, they suffer one form of ecosystem calamity or the other, amongst is desert encroachment. In the short run therefore, the governors cannot afford to fold their hands helplessly and wait endlessly for federal government intervention.

It is obvious that the amount of money needed to tackle the disasters is reasonably high, to be shouldered by state governors, yet they must take minimal steps within their reach to tackle the ugly development , even as they wait for funds from central government. Most of the high powered meetings held by the governors among themselves and sometimes with the legislators from the region are mostly hinged on politics and as such do not receive overwhelming support and consideration. By due consideration, it implies the broadening of the scope of the meetings to involve ecological, environmental and financial experts together with philanthropists. All these people from diverse walks of life with seasoned expertise, unsullied ideas and common sense rooted in experience and competence will evaluate all aspects of the project for a result oriented solution. Arresting such ecological disaster demands for strategic approach and should not be left in the hands of neophytes and apparatchiks.

The citizens of the region and its leadership must act fast and take up this challenge squarely without transferring responsibility and shifting blames. They really complain about lack of funds, and as true as this could be, the most intrinsic issue and significant thing behind the solution is the will power. Even with the meager funds at hand, something reasonable can be initiated and commenced especially in the short run. However, this does not exempt the federal government from its constitutional responsibility but to alert the governors on the propinquity of the situation.

The erosion gullies if unchecked properly, have the potential of claiming about two third of Anambra State in some nearest decades. This development therefore, desperately seeks immediate attention and long term strategy to stop the encroachment. The perennial risk with erosion gully is its irreversible ‘personality' and propensity: Once it takes hold, it becomes almost a lost battle to reverse the landslides and the degradation.

There must be short and long term strategies to trounce these erosion gullies, a blueprint strategy with standard operational procedure must be formulated. The idea is to put a stop to the progressive ecological disaster at the moment, while laying down the road map to the total arrest of future occurrences of erosion gullies. Nature could be dominated and its forces too could be channeled to more affirmative usage and consumption. Therefore with a comprehensive strategy, we can stop the disaster and fabricate the bulwark to deter the raging force of erosion.

Short-term strategy

Before recently, the leadership of states in south eastern Nigeria neglected its basic responsibilities of doing something tangible to deter erosion gullies. So with the interim destruction of the landscape of the region, an immediate action must be implemented to arrest the situation. Series of meetings among the governors must be matched with tangible actions. Too much talking without action is mere waste of time.

At least, while waiting for funding from the federal government, the governors and the incumbent bureaucrats must set up Ad havoc panel to tackle the problem immediately with the meager funds at their disposal.

Stabilizing the erosion gullies at the moment is the best realistic solution to this ugly situation. "The objective is to divert and modify the flow of water moving into and through the gully so that while scouring is reduced, sediment will appreciably accumulate and re-vegetation can then take place. Stabilizing the gully head is important to prevent damaging water flow and headward erosion.

A variety of options can be used to get the water safely flow from the natural level to the gully floor. Improvements like grass chutes, pipe structures, rock chutes or drop structures can be installed to do this effectively.

Structures might also be required along gully floors since some grades can be quite steep, to allow water rush down under peak flows, ripping away soil and vegetation. These may take the form of rock barrages, wire netting or logs across gullies. Sediments held in the water will then be deposited along the flatter grades as a result of slower water flow, allowing vegetation to re-establish."

Long-term strategy

After stabilizing the erosion gullies, a joint committee from all the south eastern government will be set up. The committee will comprise the state governors, environmental experts and financial managers. The committee will come up with a workable preventive strategy: Prevention is better than cure.

Application of Nnobi Re-vegetation strategy

Nnobi is a town in Idemili local government. The town was bedeviled with erosion gullies and without doubt constituted a great menace to the community. The farms, roads and residential areas were devastated and claimed by the erosion gullies. The Nnobi community used re-vegetation and reforestation to reclaim and control the gullies in their community. They planted cashew tress and the roots of the tress served as a cohesion that held the soil in tact with lest permeable membrane to the runway storm water.

Other "Strategies for preventing gully erosion" include:

  1. "maintaining remnant vegetation along drainage lines and eliminating grazing from these areas
  2. increasing water usage by planting deep-rooted perennial pastures, trees, or an appropriate mixture of both, thus maintaining healthy and vigorous levels of vegetation
  3. identifying drainage lines as a separate land class in which vegetation needs to be protected
  4. immediate stabilization of sheet or rill erosion
  5. vermin control
  6. ensuring that run-off from tracks is evenly distributed across paddocks ton to dissipate its energy
  7. maintaining high levels of organic matter in the soil
  8. avoiding excessive cultivation."

Education and Awareness

A media campaign will be initiated and implemented by the government to educate the citizens on their role in curbing and controlling erosion: Sowing grasses and planting trees on the residential compounds and commercial facilities can be beneficial in controlling erosion menace. Citizens should be encouraged to have cemented floors and pavements in order to minimize the storm water exposure to the fragile ephemeral soil. Urban planning and estate surveying are active tools to be applied in commercial and residential houses construction in order to avoid building houses on the soil surface vulnerable to erosion gullies.

With these strategies, the government and the people of south eastern Nigeria will finally tame and check erosion gullies for good. But our governors MUST ACT NOW lest the situation overwhelms them. Let us get to work!



Emeka Chiakwelu is an Environmental & Ecosystem expert in USA, and the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization. www.Afripol.Org

Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparenc



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