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Impact Of Gully Erosion On Infrastructure In The Southeast

Prof Boniface C E Egboka

Negative and multiple environmental impacts of floods, soil, gully erosion and landslides in the Southeast have wreaked havoc and massive destructions on infrastructural facilities all over the place. The menace has been exacerbated by extremes of weather conditions; hot dry season and wet rainy season annually. While soil erosion is preponderant during dry season, floods, soil/gully erosion and landslides occur during rainy season. The dry season occurs in months of October to March; rainy season occurs from April to September with heavy average annual rainfall of 2000mm. Rainfall occurs as thunderous showers with fast runoff and severe outwash. The floods start as sheets, rills, develop as channel flows and eventually into gullies and landslides along the flow path, wreaking mayhem along. The underlying soils are erodible sands, loose and permeable Geologic Nanka Sands/Ameki Formation. The former enveloping rainforest canopy of trees have been deforested and do not cover/protect lands anymore; rainwaters wash off soils quite easily. Demographic/urbanization impacts complicate the environmental malaise: population density is immense with consequent heavy human activities. There has been intense deforestation to build heavy infrastructure of houses, landscaping, roads, poor drainages, commercial/industrial centres etc. There have been poorly-planned civil works that are erosion causative being practiced all over the Southeast; these projects do not have proper drainage systems to evacuate the heavy floods that habitually-occur annually. People build across flood channels and along wetlands thereby exacerbating incidences of flooding and erosion. Above all, there is highlevel ignorance or nonchalant attitude towards proper understanding of the causes and implications of the problems of floods and erosion by most people of the Southeast, whether educated or not; as a result they assist in worsening the problems through their misplaced acts or inaction .These are some of the weighty reasons why gullies are endemic and have uncontrollably-spread all over the Southeast and shall continue to spread in geometrical progression unless checked. This makes erosion control in the Southeast a most difficult one if not impossible; that is why funds approved for erosion control over the years can hardly- be reliably-accounted for.

The environmental disasters have singly- and jointly-caused massive deaths of men, women, children, animals, plants etc.; caused losses of lands and vegetation; destroyed surface waters and groundwater resources in places; caused massive destructions of infrastructure such as buildings, ancestral homes, cemeteries, churches, schools, playgrounds, roads, drainages, bridges, electricity, telecommunication lines, springs, streams, lakes, rivers, aquatic flora and fauna, irrigation schemes, agricultural farms, industries, commercial centres etc. These disasters have wrought inestimable socioeconomic damages to the States/nation’s overall human and economic resources on local and regional scales over the years. These havocs have continued to spread in depth, width and breadth dimensions. They shall continue to do so unabated in geometrical progression unless immediate remedial actions are taken by the Federal and State governments of Nigeria, aid agencies, groups and individuals to control them.

Floods, soil and gully erosion occur during rainy season; landslides also occur in some sensitive areas during dry season. Many communities are ravaged by these disasters annually. Many towns and institutions have been cut away from one another and means of communications severed/dislocated. Towns, villages, families, schools, churches, markets, playgrounds etc. are separated from one another at Agulu, Nanka, Alor, Nnewi, Ihiala, Obosi, Oraukwu, Ekwulobia, Umuchu, Okwudor, Abiriba, Ohafia etc. People find it near-impossible to go to markets, churches, schools, town halls etc. for social outings and commercial functions; students are equally-hazarded while going to schools as road networks are mostly unsafe; ancestral shrines, family/public cemeteries are uprooted/destroyed; local water supply sources such as springs, streams, lakes and artificial reservoirs are regularly-polluted, and -silted up; wetlands and agricultural watersheds are also silted up and rendered infertile; aquatic animals and plants are destroyed in polluted waters; lakes become highly-eutrophic; valued lands are lost to siltation, gullies and landslides etc. In some rural communities of Agulu, Nanka, Ekwulobia, Obosi etc., many people particularly the aged ones and children are sometimes trapped in their homes already cut-off or encircled by advancing gullies. Many a time, because of emotional attachment to their property and ancestral living, they refuse to leave their homes or run away; they eventually-lose their lives and property to the gulping gullies. In many urban centres of Nnewi, Obosi, Onitsha, Awka etc. huge commercial concerns/property are lost annually to floods and gully erosion. Many people’s homes, lands and property perch precipitously/perilously at edges of chasmic gullies. The people of the threatened areas live in terrible psychological fear and total helplessness all the year round, fearing when their homes might be carried away by gullies or landslides. They live in perpetual despair as pleadings to government authorities to come to their rescue and stop the gullies-advances have usually-woefully-always-fallen on deaf ears.

People who live along the River Niger, Anambra, Idemili, Imo, Eboine, Cross River etc. drainage basins are faced with severe flood and gully disasters of various dimensions during the rainy season. This pathological fear of possible and impending environmental and infrastructural destructions is an annual wait-and-hope-or-see-happen event that is hardly escapable by potential victims; the psychologically-distressing wait-and-see scenario is the most painful one. There are yet to be well-planned and concerted actions to combat flood disasters and gully erosion problems in different urban and rural communities found along these rivers and their tributaries. Rather, lives and property are lost along these watersheds while the challenges are confronted with ad hoc measures of control programmes after many homes, human lives and agricultural lands have been lost. One can see the environmental mess the governments and people have perpetuated over the years along the banks of these rivers. Residential and commercial structures are built at river banks and wetlands; development projects and infrastructure are located within or close to surface water bodies; solid and liquid wastes are recklessly dumped into lakes, streams and rivers thereby blocking their flows and polluting or contaminating them etc. These irresponsible activities exacerbate incidences of erosion and river-bank landslides. These are observed at Onitsha, Obosi, Owerri, Okigwe, Umuahia, Aba etc. The Federal, southeastern States and their LGAs governments as a matter of utmost urgency should plan together to take drastic control measures to checkmate the problems of gully erosion and landslides that annually-ravage the environment, destroying socioeconomic resources. The immediate measures to be taken may include all or a combination of the following:

  1. Proper control measures involving Total Water Catchment Management Strategy (TWCMGS) should be employed. Environmental and Engineering Sciences professionals with proper and good civil engineering plans/designs should be used in executing projects in checking floods, soil and gully erosion and landslides in the Southeastern States.
  2. The Federal government should resume the Ronasco/Niger-Techno construction of the gully erosion civil-engineered control drainage channels that were started by the Shagari-Ekwueme administration that were approved in phases for the Agulu-Nanka, Alor-Oraukwu gully axes and the Okwudor axis. This project execution at Phase I, covered parts of Ekwulobia, Oko, Agulu, Nanka and Awgbu gullied areas, was suddenly-stopped in 1984. The drainage channel as then well-completed, now checks gullies advance up to the present day; that contract should be reawarded/restarted by the Federal government that terminated the very important award.
  3. A state of emergency should be declared in parts of the gullied areas of the Southeast and special funds raised from national and international aid agencies/organizations/donors, should be allocated for urgent erosion control programmes.
  4. All the State governments of the Southeast should mount local, national and international flood, soil and gully erosion and landslides public awareness programmes to establish channels of communication for understanding and funding for massive erosion control projects.
  5. There have been huge funds released by the Ecological Unit of the Presidency for the control of gully erosion in the Southeast over the years; the equivalently-good results for the use of these funds have not been seen; the releases and expenditure of these funds should be investigated.
  6. The States must discourage bad agricultural and civil engineering practices that are erosion-causative in badlands such as deforestation, unplanned agricultural practices, urbanization, bad roads and drainage constructions, blocking drainages with solid wastes, building on wetlands etc.
  7. States should mobilize all the people of their LGAs, churches, organizations, citizens, age grades etc. to become involved in erosion-control programmes by creating the necessary environmental protection and awareness that results in planting of trees in open lands, no farming along roadsides, no dumping of solid wastes along drainages, proper landscaping and engineering works, non-building up of wetlands and river banks, obedience of environmental laws etc.
  8. There are Federal and State Laws against environmental destruction from the anthropogenic acts of man; where the relevant laws are not available in a State, they should be enacted accordingly; these laws should be strictly-enforced against defaulters.
  9. Governments should begin to use Nigerian Environmental Scientists and Engineers in this society, our Universities and Polytechnics in the execution of projects and consultancy services.

* Prof Boniface C E Egboka, PhD, UNIZIK, Awka, Anambra State; Email: boniegboka@gmail.com

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