By Maduka Nweke
Apparently worried about erosion now threatening lives and property in the South Eastern region particularly, the Permanent Secretary in Anambra State Ministry of Environment, Mr. Emmanuel Okafor, has called on the Federal Government to come to the zone’s rescue.
Okafor, who observed that the erosion menace in the state would create avoidable expenses and quantum loss of lives if not checked on time, regretted that the Federal High Court, Awka is currently under serious gully erosion threat and at the verge of imminent collapse.
He noted that there are over 1,000 active gully erosion sites in the state and that gully erosion was shrinking the land mass of the state despite that the state was rated second smallest behind Lagos. He noted that Anambra State was fast becoming the state with the smallest land mass in the country.
Okafor said that the effect included gradual disappearance of available land for agriculture, collapse of buildings, and destruction of roads, adding that the increasing reduction in available land was taking a toll on the society as people engaged in conflicts because of scramble for land for farming and living. “Because of the problem of gully erosion, there is an increasing number in the cases of land dispute in the state now,” Okafor said.
Okafor noted that the state government was working on about 100 cases including about 20 being handled by the jointly funded Nigeria Erosion Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) which he said might be terminated by the middle of the year.
“Erosion menace in Anambra was so huge that the government could not control the incidences on its own. For this reason, residents of Anambra should imbibe the culture of healthy environmental practices like proper disposal of waste, good collection, and channelling of rainwater in homes, and professional termination of drainage by construction firms,”he said.
In the same vein, the Head of Department, Climate Change, Enugu State Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Mr Nnamdi Arum, said no fewer than eight local government areas in the state were affected by erosion.
Arum said most communities in Enugu North Senatorial District, especially Udenu and Igboeze North Local Government Areas, are under serious erosion threat, and that something urgent must be done to save the situation. He said that the state was also affected by desertification, though on a marginal scale.
He noted that both environmental hazards had affected agricultural activities in the area, leading to threats in the quest for food security in the state. “About eight local government areas have issues with gullies. The issue of erosion and desertification actually caused the extinction of arable crops, land degradation and soil sterilisation,” he said.
The HoD said that several families have been displaced and properties worth billions of naira wiped out in the area due to the erosion menace. He, however, commended the Federal Government for its ecological programmes which led to intervention by the NEWMAP.
“The agency had carried out some major intervention projects in the state, but more works still needed to be done. “NEWMAP was set up by the Federal Government as a solution to some ecological issues and it has received much support from the state government through the payment of counterpart funds,” he said.
He expressed concern that the activities of some categories of people in the state were responsible for desertification, adding that the ministry was making efforts to combat such.
In Abia, Mr Izuchukwu Onwughara, the Project Manager of NEWMAP in the state, blamed human activities for the pervasive erosion menace in the state.
Onwughara said in Umuahia, the state capital, that the South-East was susceptible to erosion because of the soil texture, high rainfall, high population density and undulating terrain.