By Kayode Ojewale
It doesn’t pay to ignore warnings. Even when they don’t make sense – Debra Doyle, American Author
OUR ‘fire brigade’ approach to issues that affect us has brought us unexpected and incalculable hardships which sometimes result in disaster. We have, as a people, become used to a life of not preparing ahead or preparing within a short time. We prefer to treat symptoms, rather than the ailment.
Certain natural occurrences that are disastrous may not be totally prevented but can be controlled if well prepared for and managed. Some disasters are also caused by man’s inadvertent activities. And at times humans deliberately dare nature to show its fury. When the natural flow of water is impeded, it forces its way to redirect; so whatever comes in contact with it must give way. This, therefore, results in having too much water in the wrong place. Flooding does not just occur suddenly, it is usually preceded by some happenings that must have pointed to its imminent arrival. The omens of flooding are here already. Are we heeding the augurs?
The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, NIHSA, has predicted more floods and placed 15 states, together with the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on flood red alert and asked Nigerians to brace for the peak of the rainy season for 2019. Lagos, a coastal city, is one of those states predicted by the agency to be hit with a flood that will be occasioned by high intensity of rainfall with long duration. Other 14 states that were issued flood alert by NIHSA are Niger, Edo, Imo, Abia, Jigawa, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Oyo, Enugu, Kebbi, Nasarawa, and Bauchi. The agency said all the 36 states of the federation and FCT will experience different levels of flooding.Also read: 4 months closure of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway : LASG allays fear of motorists
According to the Director-General of NIHSA, Dr Clement Nze: “Flooding incidents are due to high rainfall intensity…, rainstorms, blockage of the drainage system and poor urban planning resulting in the erection of structures within the flood plains and waterways.” The NIHSA boss offered some solutions after making clear the likely causes of flooding. In his words: “… States and local governments should endeavour to remove structures built within the floodplains, clear blocked drainage channels, culverts and other waterways.” He said a failure by individuals and state governments to heed the flood predictions has resulted in avoidable flood incidents leading to loss of lives and property, disruption of economic activities and loss of several hectares of agricultural lands.
Recently, one person was killed by flood in Makurdi, Benue State. It will be recalled that some states this year have already recorded casualties caused by flooding, with Abuja to being partaker of the sorrowful lot where a director at the FCT was swept away. In some parts of the country, it was reported that houses were submerged and farmlands completely inundated by floods leading to loss and destruction of property worth millions of naira. It was also reported that in Niger State, last year, over 10,000 people were displaced by the flood and about 55 deaths recorded.
Some fatalities have been recorded after some downpour this year in Niger and Jigawa states already. The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, revealed that, in 2018, a national disaster was declared over flooding, and about 100 people were killed in 10 states. In our own interest, it is imperative that we do not leave anything to chance this year and this requires that we change our culture towards the environment by ensuring that we do not clog water channels with dirt or refuse through indiscriminate disposal.
There must be an attitudinal change in the way we treat our refuse. We must care for our environment well and sustain it so that floods won’t ravage lives and property anytime it rains heavily.
Also, in preparation for the oncoming floods, occupants of houses marked as obstructions to water flow are advised to vacate such areas. Residents of areas prone to flood are duty-bound to keep their gutters and drainage channels waste-free.
It is not new that the end of August break usually ushers in the peak of the rainy season, and as such heavy rains are expected. So, another important aspect which deserves attention as we expect more rains with an attendant flood in the days ahead is our disaster management or emergency response method and approach.
Apart from prompt response to victims of natural disasters or accidents, the onus is on the emergency management agency to sensitize and properly educate members of the public on certain first aid steps to take when they find themselves in an area that is flooded. If those trapped in flooded areas are well informed on safety measures to adopt first before external help arrives, then fatality may not occur.
We urge agencies in charge of emergencies and disaster management to create more awareness for the general public to know what to do first if they find themselves in flooded areas.
Ministries, departments and agencies of health and other concerned institutions are not left out in the preparation for the oncoming flood. People must be aware of the health risks associated with flooding. Apart from the risk of getting drowned in floodwaters, one may also contract diseases like cholera and typhoid which are results of contaminated food, water sources and environment. Contact with floodwater may also pose other health challenges like infections.
As a panacea for flooding in urban areas, the government may consider building more dams and water channels like canals, dykes and levees. Our preparedness for the peak of the rainy season, effective natural disaster management and emergency response can, to a large extent, reduce the risk of flood disaster. We may not be able to prevent rains from unleashing floods, but we can mitigate adverse humanitarian effects.
Failure to heed the 2019 flood predictions by NIHSA is an invitation to deadly flood and may be tantamount to disaster. We must collectively heed these augurs by keeping our water and drainage channels free and clear always ahead of the predicted flood. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.