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Published On: Wed, May 14th, 2014

The rains are here again

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environment watch with Ambrose Inusa Sule, mnes | 0703-441-4410 (sms only)

Natural disasters have been tormenting man from time immemorial, but the present frequency and severity of these disasters have been attributed to man “inhumanity” to his environment.

In the face of this overpowering nature, shows that for man, for all his technological might, seem to humble nature by natural disasters.

There is no technology to plug volcanoes which pierce the earth’s crust, or to bind the faults which cause earthquakes. There is not yet even a science for predicting when faults and volcanoes will let loose. To that extent, mankind is still vulnerable to the vagaries of the planet.

But the story of human development is one of becoming better at coping with them, as deaths by disasters are often seen as symptoms of economic under-development.

In general, it has been discovered that richer places and richer people are better able to survive and rebound, as more interconnections provide more ways to mobilize resources and explore alternatives when disasters come visiting.

Researchers point to global warming, dams, deforestation and slash and burn farming as some of the exacerbating factors in the natural disasters that have plagued the world today.

Another factor is population density in high risk areas and the materials used in buildings and the structural quality. The adage that “Earthquakes don’t kill people; buildings do,” is often the case as most people are too poor to build earthquake resistant structure. This was the case in the Haiti’s earthquakes and aftershock in 2004 that claimed over 200,000 lives and rendered over a million people homeless.

There’s no gainsaying the fact that environmental concerns are always heightened by a major crisis. And flooding because of its relatively rapid onset can capture a great deal of public attention. Over the past decades a number of dramatic flood disasters have been documented and well publicized.

Historically, floods are as old as humanity. Like other natural disasters, the intensity and frequency of flooding have been attributed to climate change which has continued to disrupt weather variations and no doubt altered the geology of the earth.

According to reports, 2012 was the worst flood disasters in 40 years, described by scientists as a disaster of “biblical proportion”, in view of the Armageddon of flooding across all the continents of the earth where millions of people were displaced and thousands died.

Most parts of our country have always been under siege by floods, with huge costs compounded by lost of incomes in farming, mining and tourism. Victims of this ungainly flooding have been humans and livestock, farmlands and property.

Aside from the environmental hangovers of the floods, the economic impact on the country as regards food security was the most severe.

The questions are: were there measures that would have been taken but were ignored? Are we today prepared for the dire consequences of this year’s predicted flooding as regards the food crisis? Are the expected palliative measures sufficient?

The causes of these flooding are very obvious. They range from poor drainage systems, indiscriminate dumping of refuse, and building on waterways, improper town planning, overcrowded slums and lack of precautionary measures.

The loss of lives and property worth millions is a painful chestnut. According to NEMA, “Some 1.3 million Nigerians were displaced and 431 died in what the authorities say is the worst flooding in over 40 years. Farms crops and seedlings like cassava, rice and maize meant for this year’s farming session were swept away by the flood.

No doubt that the effort of the Federal Government is commendable especially as President Goodluck Jonathan’s release of N17.6 billion to aid the affected States and some Federal Government agencies responsible for disaster management to tackle the menace floods.

Equally, the bold step of setting a National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation chaired and co-chaired by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Mr. Olisa Agbakoba respectively, to provide urgent succour and relief to victims should be commended.

This time, the Federal Government should make adequate preparations not only to help the affected people, but to boost irrigation in the affected areas as promised.

Our various tiers of government must learn to move from taking curative measures to concrete preventive measures like proffering solutions for the imminent hunger that’s likely to take place in the country in this year’s expected flood disasters.

It is expected that government, as a matter of urgency, should start to embark on massive clearing of drainages, dredging of primary and secondary channels, and lining of many earth channels should be parts of efforts by the governments to cope with the rains.

But little can be achieved without the collaboration of the people as no nation can promise a flood free state, only mitigate it.

This is where National Orientation Agency (NOA) should in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Environment embark on enlightenment campaign by educating people to desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse, to drain around their homes, and building of structures on drainage alignments must stop. This enlightenment campaign should start today, if we want to minimize flood disasters this year as predicted by NIMET.

Nigerians should be called for a change of perception as regards environmental hazards, dumping of refuse into drainage channels, well-articulated and comprehensive physical planning control in the face of unprecedented urbanization, strong compliance with relocation directives in the wake of impending hazards, even if it means leaving ancestral homes -cautioning all against the use of cultural spectacles to view environmental dangers.

It could be recalled that the federal ministry of environment did promise to establish Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) in 36 states which is web-based system for forecasting devastating floods in the country. Nobody has told us if these warning systems are already in place.

Warning of an intending environmental disaster is one thing; solution is another. What are the measures that have been put in place by these agencies to mitigate the effects of these disasters when they occur?

All tiers of government agencies responsible for environmental problems should be ready to invest in disaster monitoring equipment like the Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) promised to be installed by the ministry of environment.

What we urgently need are flood and erosion prevention, control and management mechanisms? The approach of governments to environmental problems has always been medicine after death, ready to be administered by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

A disaster that strikes an unprepared a country can set it years back.

Procrastinating on flood and erosion prevention and control is like refusing medication for a developing infection.

Other countries such as Pakistan, India and Australia who suffered devastating flood disasters in recent time, should serves as a wakeup call on the authorities to act pro-actively in the area of disasters management. Structures should be put in place to monitor as well as tackle such disasters whenever they occur.

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