Perennial Floods: The Need for a Long Lasting Solution
Once again, with the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in the Republic of Cameroun, several states in Nigeria have witnessed heavy flooding with its attendant bother.
Lagdo Dam is located in the Northern Province of Cameroon which covers an area of about 586km and 50 km South of Garoua on River Benue. The reservoir which flows through the Yola axis in Adamawa State, down to other adjoining areas has rendered many states bordering the Benue River prone to floods including Adamawa, Nassarawa, Kogi, Taraba and Benue itself.
Benue State in particular, hosts the River Benue which divides and runs through it, feeding other smaller rivers and tributaries. Resultantly the state is prone to perennial severe flooding which cut across all its major towns on the bank of the river and its tributaries.
In 2012, the flood in Benue was devastating with very dire humanitarian and economic consequences, many from which the state is yet to recover. It ravaged and swept way anything within a 10-kilometre radius of the bank of the River Benue between September and October of that year. The devastation, which sacked communities in Makurdi, Apa, Agatu, Otukpo, Guma, Buruku, Tarka and Kasina-Ala Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state, left in its trail over 700,000 displaced persons with colossal damage to crops, farmlands, houses, roads, bridges and culverts.
This year experience has been any different as the floods has already displaced over 300 homes in Makurdi, Benue State capital alone, with property worth millions destroyed. In response, the Benue State Government has been moved to create camps for the displaced in Makurdi metropolis for the homeless, and with goodwill donations from charity organisations, religious bodies, non-governmental (NGOs), donor agencies, governmental agencies and public-spirited individuals, have been able to provide for them.
Unfortunately, most of these shelter seekers were people displaced by the flood in 2012 and may most likely be affected in the future, hence the need for a long lasting, if not permanent solution.
In order to understand this menace it will be well to note that upon the construction of this seemingly niggling Dam there was an initial plan proposed to contain excess water released from Lagdo Dam; the federal government proposed the construction of Dasin Hausa Dam in 1982, to run across River Benue about 20 kilometres North of Yola in Adamawa.
The multi-purpose dam would greatly help in checkmating flood in the Benue axis and also serve irrigation and also generate about 150 megawatts of electricity. However, 33 years after it was mulled, the project is yet to take off.
Earlier this year, the Federal Ministry of Environment also promised to reawaken the Dam project and complete it in the next 3 to 4 years. Before the change in government, a Brazilian company had prepared a design for the project and a renowned consultant was engaged to come up with a tender document that will enable government place advertisement for the project. It is therefore imperative for the new administration to continue in this line of effort coupled with other recommendations from the Ministry which included the dredging of river Niger and Benue.
The dredging of the two major rivers, will not only cub the incessant flooding but also boost the nation's transportation system thereby unlocking the economic potential of the North to the rest of Nigeria. Farm produce from Benue, the food basket state, will be traded and transported all over the country and even beyond.
A N25 billion contract for the dredging of River Benue was awarded by the federal government last year and work, according to the acting Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Danladi Ibrahim, will soon commence. It will be also worthy to note that the contract for the dredging of the Niger River has already been awarded with work in process, however this progressive step to finding an end to this threat may also become a counterproductive effort as dredging the Niger is already done in isolation of the Benue. This effort portends counter productivity in itself, as the Benue serves largely as the Niger's major tributary and source from the Lagdo which in effect means there will be continuous wash of sand and debris from the Benue into the Niger River which if the receiving end is dredged without its tributary giving similar attention.
Meanwhile all these interventions call for strong collaboration between the stakeholders and affected states to map out plans and strategies on how to facilitate the quick completion of the dam and dredging projects and synergise other efforts in bringing a permanent solution to this menace.
The affected state governments should also identify areas where artificial lakes could be constructed and efforts should be made to update the flood vulnerability map of Nigeria. They should further sought that intervention funds be made available to them from the ecological fund to aid in providing infrastructure to the victims.
Written by Ushakuma Anenga.