Ogun water hyacinth: Between spiritual and scientific explanation
Almost everyone that passes by Ogun River after Berger in Lagos must wait to see the clog of water hyacinth that suddenly appeared on the river penultimate Friday. DEBO OLADIMEJI uncovered what actually led to the emergence of water hyacinth.
Penultimate Friday, a portion of Ogun River was suddenly covered by water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes. Looking at the portion covered by the water hyacinth from the bridge one would think that the portion invaded by the hyacinth has dried up.
However, if you move close to the river bank, you would notice that the water is still flowing under the water hyacinth. It has actually formed a thick carpet on the river and has turned the place to a Mecca of a sort.
The water hyacinth has covered about 400 to 500 metres stretch of the surface of the river.
Last Sunday it was reported that people played football on it and they even rode motorcycles on it, except the lily-livered.
Although water was gushing out on the other side, the place that was covered by the water hyacinth appears like a dry land.
Even there were paths everywhere that pedestrians used in crossing the river before security men came to stop them. The water hyacinth was dancing around the pillar of the bridge.
People were taking photographs of the water hyacinth on the Ogun bridge. Some cattle egrets were walking on the water hyacinth. Very close to the popular Kara market, buying and selling of cows was going on by the bank of the river in the filthy and marsh market. Cow dung liter everywhere. Some people are living in the shanties under the bridge.
Some law enforcement agents the police and the solders were guiding the area to make sure that people did not walk on the water hyacinth to cross the river.
The Guardian learnt that the phenomenon started last Friday around 2:00pm when the portion of the river was covered with the hyacinth.
One of the residents who rode his motorcycle on the water hyacinth on Sunday, Sheriff Muhammed said that people were walking and playing on the hyacinth on Tuesday morning before the security men came to stop them.
“It is no longer safe to walk on the water hyacinth as the plant is already decaying, it is very dangerous for anybody to do so.”
Commissioner for Environment of Ogun State, Bolaji Oyeleye said that many people were not familiar with the clogging of the water hyacinth.
“What many people are not used to is the clogging of the water hyacinth and the fact that people could walk on it. For people that are used to riverine areas water hyacinth is a common phenomenon. Water hyacinth is not new on our waterways. It is a common feature and this is the reason why you experience it. It is always rampant during raining season, because the salt content in the water is diluted.”
“Dry season is intolerable to the water hyacinth. At that time you won’t see any water hyacinth on the river. About this time it is a common phenomenon. What has happened over the last couple of days is that Ogun-Osun River Basin opened up the dam and because there was an increase in the torrent of the water, it brought along with it water hyacinth on the river course and it ended up here.”
He disclosed that the two pillars of the bridge obstruct the movement of the water hyacinth that led to the clogging of the weed under the bridge and around it.
“The danger associated with it basically is that it habours dangerous reptiles like snake and crocodiles and the like. I was here the other day when a crocodile was killed. So people should not walk on it.”
He added that water is still moving under the hyacinth. It is just that the way the hyacinth has woven itself into a mat made it possible for . people to walk on it.
“And they think that the water has dried off. You could see the flow of water underneath the hyacinth. People are supposed to keep off from the place. Not to walk or play on it.”
He said that the law enforcement agents have been contacted to make sure that people are prevented from moving on the water hyacinth.
“We are mobilizing on site and it takes a while for people to be mobilized to clear this type of thing.”
He described water hyacinth as an invasive plant and one can’t do without it. He added that it was first experienced in Nigerian waterways in the early 60s. “It came into a head in the early 80s where the whole waterway was covered by hyacinth. That was when the state alarm was raised. Hyacinth by nature is not cultured. It invades your territory.”
He said that there are three ways of controlling it. It is either through annual mechanized harvesting (you either use hand or use specialized equipment) which we are going to employ now. Or you use chemical to control it. But that is not very friendly to the environment and thirdly you can use biological mean by changing the PH of that water. It is not something you can eradicate for now.”
Oyeleye added that there is a purpose the dam is serving. Which one can’t shy away from.
“The dam has to be opened as and when necessary. Usually by nature hyacinth is supposed to be free flowing on water. Because perhaps it was woven together and then the pillar of the river impede its movement that was what has happened.”
He explained that hyacinth is common around Ogun River. “It happened in Epe a while ago even up to this magnitude, where a state of emergency has to be declared. It is a common feature around Badagry area. It can grow anywhere.”
He said that it has other benefits. It feed on the water, it absorbs the toxins in the water. In other developed climes, he said it is used for so many things.
“It is used to feed animal such as fishes. It can be turned to fibre and so many other things. It is just that for us here we have not really taken advantage of the plant. So it has economic value if you ask me.”
A maritime expert, Chairman, Managing Director of IAR Nigeria Limited Apapa, Alhaji Ismail Adetola Lawal said that there is a spiritual power roving round the world.
“Anything can happen to any part of the world. It shows that we are not alone. We are all encompassed by that power. Even there was a village in Ogun State. It happened that people went through the place in the morning there was no water. By the time they were coming back water was gushing out like flooding in the river. It didn’t rain and so many big fishes were found in the water,“ he said.
He added the people had to wait until the water receded. According to him what is happening is being anchored by the power from the Most High God.
“If you have gone to the Great Barrier Reef in the Northern part of Australia you will see that a lot of vegetation are under the water. A lot of animals and tortoise. It is not an issue. The most important thing that we should focus our mind on is development of Nigeria both physically and spiritually.
There are still so many things that are still going to happen. The water hyacinth is just by the way,” he said.