• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Why Bayelsans will not enjoy respite from flooding any time soon

Why Bayelsans will not enjoy respite from flooding any time soon

Flooding has become a major issue in Bayelsa State since the devastating flood of 2012 affected the state followed by those of 2018, 2020 and the unprecedented flood of 2022, which destroyed both public and private property.

Bayelsa State is the flood plain of Nigeria and has been subjected to annual flooding since time immemorial, but the intensity of floods in the past few years has challenged the planning and execution of projects and programmes aimed at addressing the issue.

For Bayelsa State capital, Yenagoa, it has been a tale of pain, sorrow and shame as year after year the state government fails to show the political will and determination to address the central issue surrounding the constant flooding- the dredging of the Epie Creek.

The Epie Creek runs the length of the capital from Igbogene on the border with Rivers State to downtown Yenagoa where it empties into the Ikole River which flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Epie Creek was once the major means of transportation amongst the Epie/Atissa communities and it was also used to access nearby communities like Mbiama and Okaki in neighbouring Rivers State.

Today, the creek dries up during the dry season due to the effects of silting, dumping of refuse and large presence of water hyacinths making it non-accessible.

A few years ago, after the devastating 2022 flood, Governor Douye Diri set up a study group to look into the issues surrounding flooding in the capital and residents continue to wait with bated breath for cheering news on the way forward.

Diri also established the Flood and Erosion Control Agency with a view to tackling the annual menace of flooding as well as erosion which is an age-long environmental problem in the state.

On Wednesday, journalists under the Federated Correspondents’ Chapel embarked on independent tour of the creek and major drains in the state to assess the situation.

It was discovered that in spite of government assurances over time to address the issue, the situation has continued to worsen due to lack of action to tackle indiscriminate dumping of refuse and building on natural drains.

Artificial drains constructed by the government did not link the adjoining Epie Creek and in several instances, the gutters are filled with debris preventing the free flow of water thus, contributing to flash floods in Yenagoa.

Stretches of gutters are filled with smelly stagnant water and even with the monthly environmental sanitation exercise the condition of the gutters has remained unchanged over the years.

The Bayelsa State Physical Planning and Development Board (PPDB) had in 2023 organised an event to draw attention to the implementation of the Yenagoa master plan with a view to addressing flooding amongst others.

Professionals including a one-time Commissioner for Works and former acting president, Ijaw National Congress (INC), Charles Ambaiowei, called for the dredging of the Epie Creek to address flooding, create an alternative means of transportation and develop the tourism capacity of the state.

On Wednesday, residents who spoke to members of the Federated Correspondents’ Chapel also harped on the urgent need to dredge the creek and lamented that the delay in dredging the waterway would result in loss of lives and property should the state experience another huge flood.

Tariebi Blessed Kalakai, a pastor resident at Igbogene said “government should dig up the creek. It will go a long way to check the yearly flooding that has affected most houses beside the creek.

“But most times, government goes on crash programme when flood comes. The real solution to this creek is to pile it from Igbogene to Government House, that is all.

“Government should partner with NDDC and do it in phases, people will be happy. Government is a continuum; if this government can’t complete it, another will continue with it.”

Kalakai pointed out that “the major problem of flooding in Yenagoa is the Epie Creek which connects all the communities.”

According to him, “If government can dredge it below flood level, it will help.

“Netherlands which has similar terrain with the state enjoys such dredgings. Residents have been suffering the neglect by government not to take care of the situation despite the billions that come into the state.

“Government’s inability to take proactive steps will continue to affect not only residents along the communities but even relations of top government officials.”

Kalakai paid tribute to the late governor of old Rivers State, Melford Okilo, saying, “Posterity will continue to remember Chief Melford Okilo, a one-time governor of old Rivers State who made some inroads in the area of flood control during his tenure as governor of the then Rivers State which included the present day Bayelsa State.”

Another resident, Kate Wilson, appealed that when the creek is dredged, a standard bridge should be constructed across the creek to the communities.

“There should be a standard bridge to cross the creek when the place is dredged because we have no bridge crossing this place, she stated.

David Patrick Igidi, said the government had not ameliorated the sufferings of residents around the Epie Creek due the absence of bridges at important points along the creek.

He mentioned the presence of snakes, armed robbers and even corpses flowing from a mortuary around the area pointing out that “The neglect of the Epie Creek is caused by government as there is no official bridge connecting communities by the canal.

“Government should open up this creek. Every day, during flooding period we pay lots of money to get to our houses, snakes are all around our houses during flood, armed robbers also have field day here as a corpse flowed from a nearby mortuary to our houses.”

In the absence of standard bridges residents use plywood and planks to construct monkey bridges in a bid to access their communities but most of them are prone to accidents.

Director General, Bayelsa State Flood and Erosion Control Agency, Omuso Wilson, who responded to questions from correspondents on the preparedness of the agency to combat future floods, said funding was the major factor militating against the agency’s activities.

He also said that the agency was waiting for Diri’s second tenure to commence in order to swing into action on work on the blocked drainages in Yenagoa.

“Funds haven’t been released. Once funds are released, we’ll go into action. Now, there is not even SSG for us to apply for funds. Once government is in place, funds will be made available for us to work.

“Since we came on board May last year, we carried out some skeletal works,” he said, while thanking the governor for setting up the agency.