Countdown to Obiano’s 7th Anniversary: Focus on the Menace of Gully Erosion in Anambra State. Day 6

By James Eze
Chief Willie Obiano (Ansmbra State Governor)
Chief Willie Obiano (Ansmbra State Governor)
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Terror comes in different shapes. Sometimes, it feels like a horror movie without the forewarning sound effects. Suddenly, the earth opens her huge jaws and swallows everything within her reach. Trees, houses, cars and a frightening chunk of red earth disappear into a yawning void never to be seen again.

That is the almost otherworldly story of the menace of Gully Erosion in Anambra State. Each rainfall strikes fear in the hearts of the affected areas as storm-water roars with watery teeth; biting through the soil and swallowing mouthfuls of earth in its trail. It is a different shape of terror. It is the ecological terror of gully erosion. And for more than half a century, it has been the living nightmare of most Anambra towns.

Nnewichi Erosion Site
Today, the cries of affected communities rent the air. Old men and women; distraught by the growing realization that the terror they grew up with has been passed onto their children’s children in their lifetime…heartbroken that their ancestral land with all the memories and grandeur of history has been wrenched off their feeble grip by angry nature; and now, they have nothing to handover to the future. If there’s anything left, it is the tiny pieces of their broken dreams. And memories of farmlands and homesteads buried in an open grave.

The question often asked is, how did this nightmare begin? Researchers claim that the Nanka gully started in 1850. But today, it measures 66 meters deep, 2,900 meters long and 349 meters wide, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Geographic Information System. This is pretty much the story of many gully sites strewn across the state. They first appear as a tiny fissure on the soil; then grow rapidly into immense gorges that can swallow high-rise buildings.

With a landmass of 4,844 square kilometers, Anambra is Nigeria’s smallest state after Lagos. However, while Lagos is expanding into the ocean and claiming new territories with new real estate projects, Anambra is shrinking with over 1000 gully erosion sites scattered across the state. But since he assumed office on March 17, 2014, Governor Willie Obiano has grown grey hairs over what the state must do to arrest the onslaught of gully erosion on its territory. He began with a strident call for Anambra to be declared an “ecologically endangered state” by the Federal Government. It was a bold attempt to draw global attention to the colossal devastation of the Anambra landscape by gully erosion. But it was also a plaintive plea for help. Next, he inaugurated the state chapter of NEWMAP, three months after he assumed office. To further show that saving Anambra from gully erosion was his priority, Governor Obiano commissioned a spanking new Project Management Office for NEWMAP in Awka and promptly paid the counterpart funding for the smooth take off of NEWMAP activities in the state.

Through NEWMAP, Obiano has issued a red card to the menace. So far, NEWMAP has waged a painful war against this ecological terror and recorded impressive results. The once dangerous ravines like St Thomas Aquinas/Nero Plaza, Awka site, the Amachalla Awka site, the New Heritage/Omagba site in Onitsha, the Ekwueme Square/Federal secretariat Complex, Awka site, the Uga Amuma Obosi site, the Ire Obosi site, the Nnewichi site, the Ikenga Ogidi site, the Enugwu-Ukwu site and the Nkpor Flyover site, the Abidi Umoji site, the Ojoto site and the Abagana site have all been stitched back to healthy locations, flourishing with greenery. All these locations were once no go areas before Governor Obiano. NEWMAP is working on 14 more sites across the state.

One of the outstanding success stories of Obiano’s campaign against gully erosion is the 100 Foot Road erosion monster in Nnewi. For several decades, the stretch of land encircling the famous Nkwo Market was a metaphorical evil forest.

Over the years, the narrow gully on the edge of the market had expanded in length and width and started swallowing nearby buildings until it swallowed a whole neighbourhood. The spread of the site struck deep fear in Nnewi residents as people quickly fled from its destructive path. Slowly but steadily, 100Ft Road became a living toothache that sent painful ripples across Nnewi. But today, 100Ft Road has been restored to its old glory. It is the same story with the Ezinifite gully erosion site. It is also the same story with the Nkisi Aroli site in Onitsha where many residents had fled their homes following the onslaught of gully erosion. The pain and misery of losing homes that took years of hard work to build and becoming a tenant elsewhere is unspeakable. But happily, that story belongs to the past now to all the residents of the area.

Indeed, Obiano’s intervention in the relentless struggle of many Anambra communities with gully erosion is nothing short of revolutionary. This is because; in addition to fixing broken environments and shattered lives, there is an on-going campaign to checkmate the threat of gully erosion in the state. Having established that a majority of people across the communities still used firewood for cooking, 1,524 cooking stoves have been distributed to the residents of affected areas. Similarly, Hydro-met Equipment which issues early warning signals about an impending threat of erosion has been distributed to Omor community in Ayamelum Local Government Area of the state.

However, what future historians of Anambra State may never forget is that it was under Governor Willie Obiano that a Special Road Design Committee was established to ensure that every road built in Anambra State is appropriately planned with carefully terminated drainages. This is because, it has been confirmed that most of the gully erosion sites in the state were caused by poor road planning and poorly terminated drainages. With the Special Road Design Committee in place, Governor Obiano has blazed a trail in ensuring that the delicate ecological balance in Anambra State is carefully maintained. Again, to underscore the importance of a sustained campaign against gully erosion in the state, governor Obiano has established the Anambra State Erosion, Watershed and Climate Change Agency, backed by law to focus on the menace in the state. The agency became necessary because NEWMAP is not solely a state-owned outfit but a partnership between affected states, the federal government and the World Bank. In setting up the Anambra State Erosion, Watershed and Climate Change Agency, governor Obiano is emphasizing the imperative of keeping an eye on the environment.

He is also pointing the way for posterity and making a case for a friendlier interface between man and his environment as the society adjusts to accommodate the explosion of sudden urbanization.

Ojoto Gully Erosion Site

Ojoto Gully Erosion Site