Ravaged by erosion: Sad tale of Imo communities

VANGUARD Newspaper- Chidi Nkwopara

Owerri — Late last year, the whole world gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, to critically discuss disturbing climatic changes. Understandably, the countries of the world are in agreement that the way we live and grossly abuse the environment has not only started to adversely affect our lives but is also posing serious and irreparable danger to future generations.

From all indications, this global concern is believed to have vindicated the vision of the Imo State government, which led to the launching of the Clean and Green initiative. Some political big names in the state, however, seem not to understand the direction of the present administration as they have been accused of playing politics with the issue.

But recently, two citizens of Imo State, Messers Ambrose Obiako and Onu Oparaugo, took Vanguard Metro to a gully erosion site close to Orji Mechanic Village. This frightening erosion site stretches to the Works Layout. Several buildings are already on the verge of bowing to the superior force of the erosion.

The duo lamented that not much concern has been shown to this site but quickly added that what they were experiencing was greater than what the local council and the state government could conveniently tackle. They passionately appealed to the Federal Government to quickly step into the matter so as to save both lives and property.

Until Governor Ikedi Ohakim came into office in 2007, nobody knew that the entire state had a staggering 460 erosion sites scattered all over the state. Indeed, not one of the 27 local government areas is free from the erosion menace.

What is on the lips of Imo people is: "Which is the most devastated community in the State?" From Ideato North and South to Ikeduru, Ngor Okpala, Owerri North and Owerri Municipal, the story has remained the same. You may not appreciate the magnitude of these devastations from a distance.

Indeed, so many families have been sacked from their ancestral homes. Several hectares of farmland have been washed away. The same is also true of cash crops. This ugly development would not have taken place if, probably, all former administrations had taken steps to check the rampaging erosion. They largely paid lip service to the menace confronting the people.

Visible signs are there on government's objective of reclaiming and protecting the environment. It is steadily being pursued. For instance, out of the 460 erosion sites identified by the administration, 73 have been studied and designed with the Bill of Engineering Measurement valued and ready for award to competent contracting firms. Governor Ikedi Ohakim told Vanguard Metro that the Ministry of Petroleum and Environment has completed the control of four erosion sites in Nkwo-Mbaa in Isiala Mbano local council area.

He also disclosed that the first phase of Ebenato-Ekwe emergency erosion site in Isu Local Government Area, Umuorji Mgbidi sites in Oru West local council area, as well as the emergency erosion control at Holy Sisters of the Needy, Okwu Uratta in Owerri North Local Government Area have been carried out.

In the words of Governor Ohakim: "Design measures and emergency erosion control have been carried out in Ikeduru, Ideato South and Ezinihitte Mbaise local government areas". After visiting one of the erosion sites, Governor Ohakim even talked of relocating the entire community, as a last resort.

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Ohakim similarly told Imo Stakeholders Forum on January 4, 2010, in Owerri that his administration has since drawn the attention of the National Assembly to the erosion menace in the state, which he said is estimated to cost over N400 billion.

"The Senate Committee has visited the sites. We made solid presentation at the Senate Retreat at Enugu, on November 11, 2009. Apart from relating with the management of Ecological Fund, we are working hard to get the Federal Government to declare the South East geo-political zone a disaster area and deal with the erosion accordingly," Ohakim told the Imo Stakeholders Forum.

Whether members of the National Assembly and the federal government will eventually come to the assistance of the government and people of Imo State remains a huge probability. The ideal thing would however be to save Imo from the rampaging erosion.


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