To say that the residents of Auchi, a city in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo, always have a nightmarish experience whenever it rains is, perhaps, saying the obvious.
This is because the residents of the erosion-prone community always undergo harrowing times, particularly when there is a downpour.
Concerned citizens note that Sunday, June 24, was one of those frightening days, as a downpour, which started early in the day, lasted till the next day.
When the rain eventually stopped; several houses were submerged, while two houses collapsed.
The heavy rain also left at least three streets in the erosion-prone areas of the town completely caught off from the other areas.
All along, the impact of flooding on the city has been quite grave, as the gully in the area has steadily widened, particularly in the last 10 years.
Over the years, the gully, which is now about 10 km long and 100 metres deep, has caused the displacement of over 100 households, while destroying property worth millions of naira.
Environmentalists lament that the gully erosion in Auchi, which started about a decade ago, has now spread to several neighbourhoods in the city.
They warn that if tangible efforts are not made to tackle the environmental problem on time, it could lead to a landslide that may wipe out the entire areas that are affected.
However, that is not to suggest that the members of the community have been indifferent to the environmental menace.
For instance, the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Aliru Momoh, has repeatedly drawn the attention of relevant authorities to the menace of gully erosion in the city.
The traditional ruler, who once paid a visit to the Presidential Villa in Abuja to solicit the Federal Government’s assistance on the issue, called for the declaration of Auchi as an erosion-prone zone in 2011.
Alhaji Gaz Momoh, a member of the Otaru-In-Council (Auchi’s Council of Chiefs), describes the situation as pathetic, stressing that since the beginning of this year’s rainy season, the residents have not known peace.
“The problem of gully erosion in Auchi is not new but our experience this year has assumed a frightening dimension.
“With the rainy season not yet at its peak, two houses have so far collapsed, while many residents have been displaced.
“We no longer sleep at night anytime it is about to rain.
“Our major worry now is that we have not heard anything from the relevant authorities since the last team from the World Bank came here to assess the gully,” Momoh moans.
Another resident, Alhaji Ahmed Sani, bemoans that fact the menace of gully erosion in Auchi has been allowed to reach a disaster level.
“This is the unfortunate situation in which we now find ourselves. It is sad to note that the present situation is caused by negligence on the part of our leaders,” he says.
Sani, who is an engineer, notes that the situation would not have reached such an alarming level if a proposal to construct an outflow drain to channel water to River Orle was accepted and well-implemented,.
“I recall that when the proposal was made in the 1990s, the project was estimated to cost less than N2 million.
“Due to the non-execution of the project, the existing overhanging drainage structures gradually got eroded.
“Most of the structures, including the light drains, have caved in,” he says.
Sharing similar sentiments, the Otaru, who concedes that the Federal Government had awarded some contracts for erosion control projects in the area, however, stresses that the projects remain uncompleted.
Momoh insists that the contractors have inadvertently worsened the gully erosion problem.
The traditional ruler urges the government to adopt a holistic approach to solving the environmental problem instead of using a piecemeal approach.
However, Mr Clem Agba, the Commissioner for Environment in Edo, insists that state government does not have enough wherewithal to tackle the menace.
He says that over N7 billion is required to tackle the erosion problem in Auchi, quipping that the entire annual budget of his ministry is not even up to that amount.
“We have written to the Presidency to seek support from the Ecological Fund but we have yet to hear from them,” he adds.
All the same, Sani urges the Edo State Government to widen the scope of getting funding support for the erosion project.
He underscores the need for the three tiers of government – federal, state and local government – to collaborate in efforts to tackle the menace of gully erosion in Auchi.
“I am aware that the local government collects tenement rates; it is not just about collecting rates on property being developed, the councils should also regulate on property development activities.
“The local government councils should decide on areas that are suitable for property development and areas that are not good,” he says.
Besides, Sani says that local government councils must strive to curb indiscriminate refuse disposal in their areas, adding that the development has caused the blockage of drains in most towns.
“The blockage of the drainage systems by refuse has often led to flooding whenever it rains,” he adds.
Sani reiterates that refuse disposal has been very problematic, particularly in urban areas, adding: “For instance, Etsako West Local Government Council does not seem to have a clear-cut policy on refuse collection and disposal.”
However, Dr Bruno Oshonebo, the Chairman of the Transitional Committee for Etsako West Local Government Council, underscores the need for residents of the area to refrain from engaging in any activity that could aggravate the problem.
Saying that the people should desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse, Oshonebo also advises them to plant trees and stop tree felling. Observers, nonetheless, agree that while efforts are being made by the government and other relevant agencies to tackle the menace of gully erosion in Auchi, the residents ought to be mobilised to play active roles in the erosion-control activities.
The people should adopt environment-friendly behaviours which include tree planting and good waste disposal habits, some of them add.
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