Erosion is a serious environmental cankerworm wherever it is found. For instance, Anambra State is the second smallest state in the Nigeria after Lagos in terms of land mass. Regrettably, the state has lost and is still losing so much land to erosion and flooding. There are about 1,200 geo-referenced erosion sites in Anambra state.
Gully erosion is characterized by very active soil movement and land-slide, leading to fatalities, displacement of families, homestead and communities. There is also severe land and environmental degradation, damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, power lines etcetera as well as destruction of schools, churches, businesses and loss of arable land and livelihoods.
However, since he assumed office on March 17, 2014, Governor Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano (Akpokuedike Global) 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.
Next, three months after he assumed office, Akpokuedike inaugurated the state chapter of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP). Governor Obiano also promptly paid the counterpart funding for the smooth take off of NEWMAP activities in the state.
Through NEWMAP, Governor Obiano has issued a red card to erosion menace. So far, the state has waged a painful war against this ecological terror and recorded impressive results. The once dangerous ravines like Saint 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 erosion site; the Ojoto site and the Abagana site have all been stitched back to healthy locations. All these locations were once no go areas before Governor Obiano came on board. NEWMAP is currently working on 14 more sites across the state. The erosion sites are all verifiable.
One of the outstanding success stories of Governor Obiano’s campaign against gully erosion is the 100 Foot Road erosion monster at 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.
But today, 100Foot 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. But happily, that story belongs to the past now, thanks to Obiano.
Indeed, Governor 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.
Furthermore, 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.
Again, Governor Obiano 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, Akpokuedike Global is emphasizing the imperative of keeping an eye on the environment.