BusinessDay

Worrying disturbances of over-flooding in Nigeria

It is barely a month to the Christmas season, yet the rain has not ceased to grace the country with its unpredictable and heavy presence. Climatic conditions have significantly changed over the years, and the current erratic trends come with undeniable concerns, especially in unprepared countries.

Climate change has indeed taken its toll on Nigeria’s vulnerable geography as consequent anthropogenic influences due to global warming has led to massive melting of ice glaciers, hurricane experiences and coastal storms, overfilling of major rivers, as well as massive flooding worldwide.

In Nigeria, perennial flooding has been one of the country’s most prevalent natural disasters. This unfortunate activity occurs as a result of natural and human-made causes.

From the natural scene, Nigeria’s flooding experience can be traced to its geography. The country hosts two great rivers – the Niger, which flows from the north-west and the Benue, which enters Nigeria from Cameroon in the east. These two rivers converge at the centre of the country and then flow southwards as a single river into the Atlantic Ocean.

Read Also: Nigeria faces more flooding, drought as climate change risk rises- UK official

Much of the country’s flooding occurs along these two river lines as their banks overflow during the rainy seasons. In 2012, for instance, hundreds of thousands of acres of land were flooded when rivers Benue and Niger split. In that period, the Niger River reached a record high level of 12.84 metres (or 42 feet).

Interestingly, it is not surprising that Nigeria’s over-flooding occurrences occur in response to human-induced impulses. Increased human industrial activity, for instance, can lead to undue environmental exposure as environmentally unfriendly production processes produce toxic wastes in gaseous forms. When released into the atmosphere, these gasiforms constitute toxic materials that deplete the ozone layer, which protects the earth, causing the penetration of direct ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Such released oxides of carbon and other greenhouse emissions cause rising temperatures – even higher than the poles – resulting in the melting of giant ice glaciers, which calve off into the sea, and onto land. This, in addition to increased rainfall, results in massive over-flooding.

In addition to increased industrial activities, poor urban planning and inadequate environmental infrastructure deny Nigeria enjoying natural tranquillity when water levels rise. The resulting over-flooding experiences in the country can raise national sustainability concerns as it affects the economy, health, social life and the environment. Undoubtedly, flooding constitutes a threat to Nigeria in its drive towards sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Over-flooding has, over the years, negatively impacted Nigeria’s development efforts. There has been a visible compromise of the country’s social, economic and environmental targets as yearly incidences have resulted in massive loss of lives, increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), increased poverty and hunger, and lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

In 2012, for instance, the nation recorded its scariest flood experience where 2 million Nigerians were displaced, and 363 individuals died. The event cost the country an estimated $16.9 billion in total losses. In 2015, over 100,000 individuals were displaced, and 53 persons died due to over-flooding. In the following year, 2016, 92,000 Nigerians lost their homes and businesses, and 38 deaths were recorded from over-flooding. Environmental damages due to over-flooding affected over 250,000 people in the eastern-central region in 2017.

Also, about 200 individuals were killed in 2018 due to massive over-flooding in Niger, Kogi, Anambra and Delta states, respectively. The President declared a state of emergency in the affected states, and an $8.2 million relief pledge was made by the presidency.

It seems easier to address flooding issues that arise as a result of human-induced actions over natural causes. In Nigeria, many residential areas lack proper drainage facilities but rely on natural drainage channels. Also, increased urbanisation and the consequent rise in poorly planned buildings in urbanised centres contribute to over-flooding in Nigeria.

Poor waste management is another problem that entices the evil of over-flooding. When large chunks of improperly dumped wastes are not properly managed and disposed of by the responsible authorities, flooding occurs, especially when heavy rain pours for a prolonged period.

Unregulated urban expansion without a commensurate provision of modern urban infrastructure and amenities can cause over-flooding. Also, poor implementation of planning laws that govern the locational distribution of erected buildings can cause flooding experienced in affected areas.

Corrupt town planning officials also lend a hand to this disaster. When officers take bribes and overlook issues, they encourage unauthorised land use and alteration of approved construction plans. When buildings are wrongfully erected in flood-prone areas, residents of that area become vulnerable to over-flooding during persistent rainy days or when the sea level rises significantly.

Appropriate actions by the government are needed to mitigate the occurrence of over-flooding in the country. There should be a focus on controlling and managing floods in Nigeria rather than spending billions of dollars in post-disaster rescue operations. Addressing the country’s undue exposure to flood risks should be made a matter of national priority by the government and other relevant stakeholders.

Furthermore, the government should develop the political will to invest appropriately in areas that help prevent and control over-flooding in the country. Investment in sustainable urban planning, green infrastructure and technology is required to avoid future over-flooding and provide early warning signals in incoming danger.

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