Imo communities cry for help

Erosion site in Imo

Erosion site in Imo

FOR decades, the menace of erosion has become a worrisome and seemingly intractable problem in Imo state. Virtually all the 637 autonomous communities in the 27 Local Councils of the state have the problem. Some, though, have more acute issues, which have led to deep gullies.

A census carried out by the Imo State Government not too long ago, indicated that not less than 400 erosion sites were identified. While some are in their various stages of existence, some have remained and sacked communities for decades spanning 50 years.

Several millions of naira in the name of Ecological Fund disbursed by the Federal Government to the state I the past could not solve the problem, as billions of naira is needed to check and control this menace.

Recently, precisely, last year, the World Bank, through its assisted Project, Nigeria Erosion and watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), was set up to handle the problem. Seven states identified as the endemic areas (all the South East and two South- South states) to enjoy the pilot project included Imo, Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Cross River and Edo States.

Initially, the funding pattern of was N100 million was to be contributed by the states as take- off counterpart was initiated. Imo State brought in N100 million last year, thus fulfilling its obligation.

This led to the commencement of the work on identification, designing and take-off project on three of the erosion sites. They included Eziala Obizi in Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Council; Amanato- Umueshi, Ntueke Ideato Local Council and Iyiuzo Ihioma, Ogbaeruru in Orlu Local Council gully erosion sites.

Before the salvaging work on them started, the World Bank had invited the team of communication experts led by the Aries Concepts Communications, Abuja, with the Executive Director, Mr. Shola Akinsiku and other media experts, to witness the sorry situation of the sites.

The Imo State Project Coordinator of NEWMAP, Victor Anueyiagu, an Engineer, Communications Expert from the NEWMAP, Mr. Dan Ejiofor, among others, conducted the team to the sites. A team of Non Governmental Organization (NGO), Concerned Group for Nigeria Environment, Population and Development in Nigeria (NCOGED – D), led by its Executive Director, Mrs. Claribel Opkara, was on hand to express their sorrow and joy for the reclamation effort and assessment in progress. At the end of the assessment, a media round Table chaired by Akinsiku, was held in Owerri, where stakeholders proffered solutions to the best way forward to the problem for those who deserted their ancestral homes to return.

Communities who had been sacked by the devastating situation also explained to the media their gory experiences. The situation, according to one Okey, a farmer from Ideato South, is “pathetic”.

He said: “We have been sacked from our ancestral homes. You can see we have left here to our maternal, friends and relations homes in neighbouring communities. We do not know if the erosion menace will not get to those areas. We appeal to the government to hasten up and restore these areas.”

Other sites, The Guardian gathered, are scattered in various locations, while more are coming up in different areas.

Recently, the team World Bank officials invited the media experts to undertake a tour of the sites to the areas where work had started, to ascertain the situation. But other community dwellers are still crying for help.

Out of five gully erosion sites identified for quick intervention, only three have been approved.

Precisely, the three pilot sites are – Eziala Obizi in Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Council; Amanato- Umueshi, Ntueke, Ideato South Local Council and Iyiuzo Ihioma, Ogbaeruru in Orlu Local Council, were inspected. Urulla Gully Erosion is undergoing some designs. Some of them are measuring over a range of 1,000 to 1,700 meters and 2.4 – 2.8 below, some 16 meters away.

Though relief came their way, but the situation in Amanato, Umueshi, Ntueke, Ideato South needed more resources, as the over 40- year –old erosion site had some areas reclaimed, washed away by the flood. The ARBICO Construction firm, an indigenous company, is carrying out the job while CNL Limited is handling the Ezeala Obizi Ezinihitte Erosion project.

At Ezeala Obizi, Ezinihitte Mbaise, the monarch of the community, Eze S. O. Azubuine (Obizie V of Obizi, Ezinihitte), said the community was happy for the intervention, urging that resources be channeled for quick work. He regretted that the erosion washed away many homes. He also promised to ensure that members of the community adhere to the instructions to avert a repeat. A dam is under construction to receive the flood after channeling it.

The State Management Project Unit, site committees and the community associations are involved. The communities will only provide human and material contributions, as no cash component is expected from them.

Succour came the way of the communities as some erosion sites under construction, measuring 15 meters, are now just five meters while the drainages and open culverts are expected to last for 100 years.

The issue, however, remains as to how the many gully erosion sites in several communities in the state would be salvaged, since the five identified ones remained just a tip of the iceberg.

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