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Tackling Ocean surge in Ondo State

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Worried about the incessant ocean surge along the coastal Ayetoro in Ilaje Local Government of Ondo State, the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) Unit has commenced work to stop the menace. This is a welcome development that needs to be extended to other low-lying coastal districts. 

Nigeria’s coastline is prone to an ocean surge that ravages communities annually. In August 2012, the Lagos State Government demolished buildings at the Kuramo Beach in Victoria Island after a strong ocean surge swept through the facility. No fewer than five people were killed with twelve more missing. The situation of Ilaje almost at sea level exposes the area to marine encroachment, especially, now that the rainy season is around the corner. 

As the rains peak, ocean surge could become rampant. Large swaths of coastal environment would be submerged. The onus is on the state and federal authorities to ensure that necessary checks are put in place to protect lives and property, as well as the fragile ecosystem.

Hundreds of houses and schools had been swept away by the sea surge. Efforts made by the government to resolve the problem on ad-hoc basis have been unsuccessful. There is therefore need for a lasting engineering framework that would check the menace on a permanent basis.

Consequently, NEWMAP, in support of the World Bank and the Ondo State Government was said to have awarded the contract to a firm in a bid to end the scourge. It is not clear how much is involved or who the contractor is, it is hoped that necessary steps, including due diligence, were done to determine the capacity of the contractor to execute the work. We don’t want to hear that the work has been abandoned halfway by the contractor.

The NEWMAP Coordinator in the state, Marcus Adewodun, said the state government had approved the first phase of the project, which involved studies and the design of the Ayetoro sea area.

According to him, the studies had been designed in a way that would accommodate everybody in the area, starting from engagement of the youths of the area in carrying out the assignments. This will be followed by the main work that will put the sea in its right place. He sued for the total support of the residents of the community, saying, “The company representatives will start living with them through the course of their work in the area.”

Speaking on behalf of the state House of Assembly, a member, Mr. Success Torokerojor, said the Assembly would ensure that the necessary legal framework for the quick implementation of the project is put in place.

Torokerojor, who is the Chairman of the House Committee on Environment, said, “The committee will not relent in its oversight function to put the contractor handling the project on his toes.”He appealed to the people in the community, especially the youths, to be peaceful and law-abiding to enable the contractor deliver the project on schedule.

As indicated above, Nigeria’s 800 kilometre coastline is prone to ocean surge. Experts warn that settlements on the nation’s coastal areas risk total submergence, except pragmatic steps are taken by stakeholders to avert such a catastrophe. 

The point at issue in the Ondo critical project is coastal engineering, which would require the design, construction and monitoring of coastal structures. There would be need for breakwaters and other engineering structures that would check waves from surging onto the adjoining areas. There could be a system of protective levees and embankments to allow people settle even below sea level as the case maybe.

The problem of ocean surge is commonplace along the coastal states bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The authorities require pro-active measures to avert potential danger. There has been too much official lethargy on this environmental concern. 

Worldwide, cities situated on coastal areas are usually protected with dykes and embankments. The entire Netherlands, for instance, is known for its system of dykes that shield the country from the ravages of the sea. 

From that angle, the effort of the Lagos State government is commendable. Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, teeming huge population put at over 18 million people. It would be disastrous if a killer ocean surge occurs that drowns the city. 

It is hoped that the protective sea-breakers that would be erected in Ondo would solve the problem once and for all. The same measures should be implemented in the Niger Delta to protect the oil and other facilities.

Ocean surge occurs when ocean water is pushed towards the shoreline, usually by the force of swirling winds around a cyclonic system. The advancing surge combines with the normal tides and creates high waves that can reach 30 feet or more. The force of the waves could cause disastrous impacts on the adjoining coastal areas that are submerged.

However, this kind of disaster is avoidable if proactive measures are put in place, which is what the Ondo protective measures are expected to achieve. That stitch in time can save nine!

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NEWMAPSuccess Torokerojor
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