Gully erosion eating away South East
Last week in Njaba, Imo state ,Mr. Festus Okoro ‘s heart was filled with sadness as he surveyed what was left of his three hectares of farmland on which he had planted young cashew seedlings.
The retired ports worker had invested part of his retirement benefits on the farm only to discover that two days of heavy rainfall had left a large gully through which his seedlings had been washed into the Njaba river.
All across the South East, from Enugu to Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi and Abia states , gully erosion has cut up or washed away roads, destroyed farmlands, pulled down houses and sent residents fleeing their homes.
Investigation by The Guardian showed that Akwakuma in Owerri North Council, Njaba and parts of Okigwe road in Owerri Municipal are worst hit in Imo State. There is the Ohafia-Arochukwu axis and the Umunneoche Council in Abia State where residents have fled their homes.
In Anambra, several communities are being ravaged by erosion while the Nguzu-Edda and Abia Iwerre communities in Afikpo South Local Council, Ebonyi have some of the worst erosion sites in the region while Enugu’s sites are mostly located along the Udi axis.
A visit to some of the erosion sites showed that economic and human activities are almost non-existent, the result of the yawning and dangerous gullies created by large-volume, fast-flowing run-off.It is often heart-breaking to see beautiful houses perched on the edges of deep gullies, long abandoned by their owners who have relocated and from wherever, await the inevitable swallowing of their homes.
The headquarters of Afikpo South council at Nguzu-Edda, has been relocated due to the threat by erosion even as a few buildings still sit perilously on the edges of gullies.A resident, John Nwuifuru told The Guardian that the “local government headquarters was relocated sometime by the administration of the former chairman of the council, Nkama Nkama Ude because the former location was no longer safe for habitation. You have seen how erosion ravaged the area to the point that buildings were swallowed and even the internal roads are no longer accessible.”
Nwuifuru also disclosed that the entire Abia-Iwerre community is being threatened by erosion that has also sacked many residents.At Oko community, Orumba North Council in Anambra state, erosion has shown it s no respecter of anybody.
The family homes of former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and his younger brother the traditional ruler of the community, Prof. Laz Ekwueme are under serious threat of being washed away.So are facilities which include the Science Laboratory Technology (SLT) and auditorium at the Federal Polytechnic Oko, under construction may be swallowed up by an encroaching gully unless something is done to save them. It was gathered the school has sunk over N8bllion to erect some of the
structures now being threatened.
The Guardian learnt that over 900 erosion sites exist in over 177 communities of the state including Oko, Ebenebe, Nanka, and Agulu among others, leading to severe environmental degradation and adversely affected the socioeconomic lives of the people.According to Mr Ikenna Uba, cases of land degradation that developed into full-blown gully erosion sites were caused by human activities through the indiscriminate dumping of waste products, felling of trees
and an increased runoff due to rapid land use development.
He added that the poor drainage system of the people was responsible.Uba told The Guardian that several intervention efforts had been made, stressing however that “they are hardly likely to contain galloping erosion from the numerous congestion we have in terms of infrastructure here.”
He said the Federal Government through the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) is intervening in the area, adding however that “the more they intervene, the more new erosion sites are developed.“They are intervening in Amachalla gully in Awka South, Uruokpala-Umudunu erosion in Abagana Njikoka, St. Thomas Aquinas/Nero Plaza in Awka, and the New Heritage erosion site at Omogba, Onitsha”, he said.
It was gathered that the affected sites which would have been completed before the end of the first quarter of this year are being delayed by paucity of funds.One of the natives, George Uzo said they would be happy to see that the jobs were delivered, stressing that the intervention project was necessary to save some structures still standing as well as recover some farmlands.
The 23-kilometer Arochukwu-Ohafia federal road which runs from Ebem in Ohafia to Amuvi Village in Arochukwu Local Council of Abia State is also being ravaged by erosion.
Although a long segment of the road, which was cut off when it caved in some years ago had been sand- filled, there are noticeable threats of new gullies on the road.
The road said to have been constructed during the first republic and later rehabilitated during the second republic administration, defied subsequent repairs by successive governments which residents described as just nothing than grading during the dry season and filling of some potholes in the rainy season.
One of the residents, who identified himself as Ebuka stated: “We heard stories about the award of the contract and saw a contractor working on some portions of the road. But you can see that the road is still in a terrible shape due to erosion.
Under normal circumstances, it should be a 30-minute drive from Ebem Ohofia to Amuvi-Arochukwu, which would enhance the businesses of Ihechiowa, Ututu and Arochukwu communities and beyond.But as they are trying to fix the road, more areas are collapsing.”
In Imo, the Akwakuma erosion has narrowed the road to Onitsha and other adjoining areas.For Enugu, parts of Udi and Ezeagu along the Enugu- Onitsha road are seriously ravaged by erosion. The road, which is a dual carriage way has been reduced to one lane with various parts of the road washed
Efforts to get officials of the Federal Ministry of Works in Enugu to comment failed. An official told The Guardian on condition of anonymity that; “We are controlled from Abuja. It will not be fair to speak unless they direct us to do so.”