It was exactly 10 years ago we woke up to experience one of the worst floods in Nigeria’s history. Remember, in 2012 we witnessed flooding In Delta State and parts of Nigeria. Delta State was badly hit with lives lost and properties worth billions destroyed in one fell swoop. From Oko Anala, Oko- Ogbele, Infant Jesus, Uchi in Ndokwa, Patani, parts of isoko, etc. I feel so sad this has happened again exactly a decade after.
Before the 2012 flood, I had written a book titled “The Realities of Climate Change: Burning Questions and Possible Answers”. The duo of Former Governor E. Uduaghan of Delta State and now Late Prof. Gregory Iwu (Former Pro Chancellor National Open University of Nigeria) wrote the foreward. In the book I had suggested (with facts from NEMA) the likelihood of flooding overwhelming cities across the country and the need to take responsible policy and personal steps to nip this threat in the bud.
Then, the floods came rushing like the east wind into homes, cities, villages, and indeed into anything near and beyond the rivers. The cries were loud, bitter and many were moved from rural areas into IDP camps all around the state. Never seen such emergency response that galvanized people to show concern and love.
Months after, the floods receded. Many returned back to devasted homes and with nothing to start rebuilding their lives. Many also thought the 2012 experience will be an inspiration for more innovative solutions towards addressing the issue of flooding in Nigeria.
I had personally thought that more strategic policy initiatives by respective governments would have been taken with climate change mitigation and adaptation in mind. From ideation, designing, planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, etc one would expect that climate change issues will be front line. That is not the case, yet.
Drainage infrastructure is a major enabler of flooding. Poor or inadequate drainage facilities, blocked drains, shallow rivers, dumping dirts in seas, poor physical planning, building on natural drain areas, ignorant officials implementing policies are major contributors to the flooding experienced in some of our cities.
Also, cities, peri-urban, urban slums are getting more crowded especially with increasing insecurity. Population explosion encouraged by irresponsible building permits allowed without recourse to original Masterplans. Government agents allow slums to grow near cities, and by that enable environmental monsters to threaten the quality of life.
This calls for re-orientation of state actors, public and civil servants concerned with land management, physical planning, environmental management and most importantly building approvals. Corrupt and ignorant personel without good understanding of the implications of issuing wrong approvals should not be allowed to take such decisions. The approval an ignorant or corrupt official allows today can be the undoing of coming generations.
A local example is the current Oko market (picture attached) in Delta State. That location was not a market in 2012. It was a large piece of land susceptible to flooding from heavy rains and sea level rises. Traders in the Abraka market were hurriedly relocated to that flood prone location. My guess is that the Abaraka market was relocated was to clear the traffic that usually restricts easy entry into Asaba city from the Onitsha axis.
Today, 2 years after its establishment the new Oko market is flooded. In trying to solve a traffic/city aesthetic challenge, another difficult situation was created. Common sense or better still an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) could have revealed the consequences of hurriedly planting a market in that location without proper planning, drainage management systems, including sea walls, sand filling/pilling; key sustainability management approaches, and of course creating a fall back climate resilient system for adaptation purposes.
This 2022 flooding is indeed a reminder for Delta State Government and indeed all Sub-National Governments in Nigeria that Climate Change is more real than imagined. The peril of global warming poses great threat to the infrastructural development efforts of governments and individuals.
Therefore, it is important for key goverment actors to understand that environmental sustainability is key to livable and fuller lives. Without Sustainability life will be nothing. There will be no life. This therefore means it is time for inter-agency, inter-ministerial & community collaborations.
The fact is the world is changing, just as the climate is changing leading to increased extreme weather events. The government especially at the State and Local Government levels must rise up to the challenge especially with policies and projects that encourage climate change mitigation and adaptation approaches. Any government that avoids this is irresponsible and unfair to the now and the next generation.
Citizens must also wake up to their responsibility by protecting and preserving their immediate environment. Irresponsible dumping of refuse in drains and rivers must stop. Felling of trees without replacement, fossil fuel usage, etc should be discouraged. We must play our part.
As part of my CSR initiative we have sustained advocacy on green issues since 2007. Also, in order to mainstream discussions on eco-Sustainability we developed the International Hospitality Tourism and Eco-Sustainability Forum, an annual Hospitality leadership conference with climate change and green economy in mind.
Finally, as the 2023 election approaches we must watch out for candidates (across all levels) whose manifesto reflect strong understanding of low carbon and connectedness with climate change solutions that will help secure the future of our ecosystem. Any candidate that is latent on issues of Climate Change is not smart choice but an ‘ancestor’
2032 is 10 years from now. While we pray this flood does not repeat itself in another decade, now is the time to start building relevant policies, human capital and infrastructure to withstand and push back the pressures of a warming globe and a changing climate.
@Chibuikem Diala arpa MITPN is CEO Sustainable Eco6tems and Founder International Hospitality Tourism & Eco-Sustainability Forum (IHTEF), the Premium Hospitality Forum for the Hospitality sector in Africa. IHTEF Conference focuses on the tripod Hospitality, Tourism and Eco-Sustainability in Africa.