WITH JOKE ADENIYI-JACKSON
Some few weeks ago, a lady identified as Latifat Adeyemi was swept away by flood occasioned by heavy downpour that lasted for about three hours on the fateful day in Ilorin, Kwara State.
The lady was said to have slipped into a flooded drainage in the Maraba area of the state capital and was swept away. Sadly, all efforts to recover her body was futile. However, it was not only the family of Lateefah that was thrown into sorrow that fateful day, many homes had the bitter taste of the rain of pain. The downpour rendered over 1,000 people homeless in areas across the metropolis. There was a similar occurrence sometime in July this year, when rainstorm ravaged communities within the state capital and left victims counting their losses.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government agency responsible for issuing flood alerts in Nigeria, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), recently issued an alert warning Nigerians of imminent increased flooding in September. Thus, the agency called for adequate flood prevention, mitigation and preparedness by states and the Federal Government.
It is quite unfortunate that flooding has become a recurring decimal in Kwara State. The problem is age-long and seem to have defied solution by successive government. I could recall that sometimes in the 80s my maternal uncle and his family members became Internally Displaced Persons taking refuge in our home as a result of flood that sacked them from their home at Stadium road then. Still fresh in our memories is the flood that occurred around Omosebi and Adisco area of Ilorin, few years ago, which led to death of no fewer than three persons; two of whom were young siblings. In addition, about 20 vehicles were washed away in the flood events in the state capital at that period. The rain has continued to leave in its trail pain, tears and sorrow every year.
Given the gloomy hydrological prediction, the issue of flooding should not be treated with kid gloves. Attention should be paid to landuse. Though, understandably this extreme hydro-meteorological event is exacerbated by climatic change.
Flooding usually occur after heavy rainfall especially when it is in quick succession when the water table is high in the month of September. With the astronomical population growth as a result of rapid urbanisation, high population density, waste generation and disposal has become serious issue in places like the state capital where people dump refuse indiscrimimately. It is unfortunate that people built houses on flood plains and river banks, which block water ways and makes water to find alternative routes to the detriment of residents living and property within radius of such river. The blame can only be laid at the door step of the state Town Planning Authority.These unsafe practices need to be discouraged. Government should prevent people from building in flood-prone areas. Houses occupying right of way of water should be demolished and the affected people resettled elsewhere. To mitigate thus yearly disaster, it is pertinent that proper drainages are constructed across the state to ensure easy drainage of excess rainwater to prevent washing away of top soil (erosion), which contributes to flooding, while sanitation rules must be enforced for safer environment. The completion of channelisation and dredging of some rivers in the state through synergy between the state and federal government is a sure way of curbing flood in the state.
Residents on their part have roles to play in this. People resident in flood-prone areas must be vigilant and relocate to safer places to avoid disaster.
Wastes should be properly disposed and to stop them from blocking existing drainage channels. The citizenry, too, need to change their attitudes which are culminating into environmental hazards. All hands must be on deck to make our environment a safe habitat.
The State government must also sustain its media advocacy on the prevention of flood in the state, develop the political will to act against erring residents to environmental regulations and embarking on aggressive desilting of blocked.
“Identified communities in local government areas across the state should relocate to safer places temporarily for safety of people and their property. So also farming along riverine areas should be discouraged for now.
The huge economic loss owing to hydrological disaster is best imagined and as such, should be prevented at all costs.