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Coping with the rage of floods


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Nigeria

Coping with the rage of floods

 

It was a season of sorrow in Ibadan as many parts of the city were recently submerged by flood after a torrential rainfall which exposed the vulnerability of the Oyo State capital. Granted that natural disasters all over the world can beat even elaborate planning, the flood disaster that claimed more than 100 lives and destroyed billions of naira worth of property has been traced to haphazard planning, lack of foresight by successive governments and bad habits of residents. “The law says you must construct your buildings at least 150 metres from the drainages and canals. What we have seen now is that a lot of people are constructing not only on the pathways but also on the riverbanks. Therefore, the rainwater has no way to flow,” bemoaned the state Governor, Abiola Ajimobi. He also berated past administrations in the state for not placing emphasis on channelisation and drainage and for constructing substandard roads that were easily washed off by the rains. “If you look at where we are standing, there is no stone base for the roads before construction.”

The governor consequently pledged to remove the obstacles on waterways and keep the town planning authorities on their toes to enforce the state’s rules on construction and physical planning.

From Agbowo to the sprawling University of Ibadan campus, Ajibode, Apete, Oke-ayo, Odo-ona Elewe, Oloomi, the impact was far-reaching. Buildings, bridges and roads were submerged by fast-moving floods. Makeshift bridges caved in while old and decrepit roads became slippery, turning into death traps for the panicky residents fleeing the raging flood. The city was clearly unprepared for the rising water level caused by several hours of rain. There were tales of woe from families of dead victims, including a man who lost his wife and six children and a hospital that lost one of its doctors. The University of Ibadan claimed that it lost property worth N10 billion.

Before the latest tragedy, there was a major flood incident in July this year when buildings and other property were swept away in areas under constant threat of flood such as Onipepeye, Oke Padre, Oluyoro, Bodija, Ogbere Idi Osan, Apata, Odo-Oba, Olunloyo-Akanran Road and Gbagi. There were also reports that several lives were lost to floods last year.

The Friday, August 26 tragedy was reminiscent of the 1980 River Ogunpa deluge during which hundreds of people died or were displaced, while property worth billions of naira were lost. In 1962, there was another devastating flood in Ibadan. It was in the wake of the 1980 disaster that the Federal Government, in 1981, embarked on the channelisation of the Ogunpa River. The project, according to reports, was abandoned shortly after its commencement before it was again revived during the first term of President Olusegun Obasanjo, between 1999 and 2003.

Ibadan is under the constant threat of streams that overflow their banks after heavy rainfall. Unfortunately most of the bridges over these streams and rivers are antiquated and too narrow to withstand the effects of massive water surge.

The Ibadan incident is a lesson to other flood-prone cities in the country. On July 10, Lagos also witnessed a torrential rainfall that caused the deaths of many people, drowning buildings, roads and vehicles. And about the same time as the Ibadan flood, there was an ocean surge in Lagos and a flood disaster in Bauchi State which destroyed about 50 houses, suggesting that, across the nation, adequate measures need to be put in place by states and local governments to prevent or, at least, mitigate the effects of flash floods.

Ominously, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency has warned that, in the coming weeks, Bauchi and Lagos are likely to witness serious flooding while Lagos and Abuja will be hit by thunderstorms. How prepared are they for such eventualities?

Most flood-prone places are faced with the common problems of improper waste-disposal habits, neglect of drainage channels, haphazard construction and poor town planning. Various state governments need to embark on adequate channelisation, construction of drainage and evacuation of refuse that block drainage to allow for free-flow of water. In Ibadan, there have been calls for the dredging and channelisation of Kudeti, Orogun and Ona network and the completion of lower Ogunpa channelisation project. It is high time the Federal Ecological Fund was prudently administered to improve the environment and prevent avoidable disasters. Governments at all levels should be prepared to mitigate the effects of the worldwide climate change and save lives and property of Nigerians.

 

 

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Updated 7 Years ago
 

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