Rage of the elements: How climate change fuels flooding in Anambra


NIMET lists communities in Anambra at risk of flooding to include Ihiala, Agulu, Nnewi, Ozubulu, Okija, Omor, Umunze, Umuchu, Ogidi, Onitsha and Awka

• State records several casualties, as govt urges residents to adopt safety measures

Aloysius Attah, Onitsha

In March this year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), in its annual Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP), forecast that flooding of immense magnitude would be experienced in different parts of the country.

The NIMET report, presented by its director-general in Abuja, Prof. Sanni Abubakar Mashi, while talking about disaster management this year, noted that: “As this year’s forecast is predicting a normal to above rainfall across the country, emergency managers should use this information to help prepare disaster-prone communities for the aftermath of excessive rainfall that may likely cause flooding. Also, wet spells and flash flood can occur in areas with likelihood of normal to below normal rainfall.

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“Other disasters may arise from strong and gushing winds and lightning, especially at the onset and cessation periods of the rains. The southernmost areas will be characterised with nonviolent thunderstorms during these periods. The general public is advised to clean up drainage channels to allow free passage of water so as to reduce the risk of flooding in their communities.”

NIMET also listed communities in Anambra at risk of flooding this year to include Ihiala, Agulu, Nnewi, Ozubulu, Okija, Omor, Umunze, Umuchu, Ogidi, Onitsha and Awka, among others.

A few months after the forecast, the NIMET warning not only came to pass but surpassed its predictions in terms of massive flooding, destruction of life and property as well as the devastation of the environment.

At the last count, at least nine people had been confirmed dead from flooding in different parts of Anambra State, while property worth hundreds of millions of naira have been destroyed.

In Anaku, Ayamelum Local Government Area, which has a common boundary with Omor and was mentioned in the NIMET report, flash floods last month claimed a pregnant woman and her daughter, while in Igbariam, Anambra East Local Government Area (LGA) and Nteje, Oyi LGA, two men also lost their lives to flooding.

The Anaku incident even assumed a dangerous dimension when youths in the area went on the rampage, destroying equipment belonging to a rice farm. It took the intervention of security agents to bring the situation under control.

More flood devastation continued in Anambra on July 25 following a downpour that started late in the night and stretched to the morning hours. A Peugeot 504 saloon car with four occupants was washed away by the rains and was submerged in a flood along Nise Road by City Landmark Hotel, Amawbia, Awka. According to a statement by Haruna Muhammed, spokesman for the Anambra State Police Command, a police patrol team rescued three male occupants of the vehicle. But a 13-year-old girl was swept away by the flood and was later confirmed dead.

From Amawbia to Nibo down to Obosi, Ogidi, Onitsha and Awka, it has been more tales of woe. Buildings have been submerged, worship centres destroyed and property damaged beyond repair.

Some of the submerged areas also battle with dangerous reptiles washed ashore into homes, while some displaced persons are still too scared to return home after the terrible experience.

Climate change at work

Experts have attributed the various calamities recorded through flooding to the effects of climate change in the ecosystem.

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According to Warm Heart Worldwide Organisation, climate change refers to significant, long-term changes in global climate, which is the connected system of sun, earth and oceans, wind, rain and snow, forests, deserts and savannahs, and everything people do, while the climate of a place can be described as its rainfall, changing temperatures during the year and so on.

Because the global climate is a connected system, climate change impacts are felt everywhere and its effects manifest mainly through rising sea levels, melting ice caps, torrential downpours and powerful storms, hurricanes and typhoons, heat waves and changing ecosystems.

According to the report by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), average sea level around the world rose about eight inches (20cm) in the past 100 years while climate scientists expect it to rise more and more rapidly in the next 100 years as part of climate change impacts.

“Coastal cities such as New York are already seeing an increased number of flooding events and by 2050 many such cities may require seawalls to survive. Estimates vary, but conservatively, sea levels are expected to rise one to four feet (30 to 100cm), enough to flood many small Pacific island states (Vanatu), famous beach resorts (Hilton Head) and coastal cities (Bangkok, Boston).

“If the Greenland ice cap and/or the Antarctic ice shelf collapses, sea levels could rise by as much as 20ft (6m), inundating, for example, large parts of Florida, the Gulf Coast, New Orleans and Houston.”

The report further noted that sea rise is expected entirely to submerge a number of small, island countries, and to flood coastal spawning grounds for many staple marine resources, as well as low-lying capital cities, commercial agriculture, transportation and power generation infrastructure and tourism investments. Torrential downpours and devastating storms will also increase large-scale damage to fields, homes, businesses, transportation and power systems and industry in countries without the financial or human capital resources to respond.

Not restricted to Anambra

Giving an insight that flooding occasioned by climate change is a global phenomenon not peculiar to Nigeria alone and requiring serious efforts, Surfers Against Sewage, in an article by Church, J.A. and N.J. White (2006) noted that the waters around the United Kingdom have warmed by around 1°C over the last 100 years.

“In 2007, summer floods affected England, Wales and Northern Ireland, costing the economy more than £3 billion in England alone. Global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century.”

Andrew Slaughter and Nelson Odumo of Rhodes University, in their own report, “(Don’t) Send Down the Rain,” recalled that “some of the worst flooding in Nigeria in recent memory happened five years ago in March 2012 when 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected, 24 severely. More than 360 people were killed and almost two million people were displaced.

“The problem of flooding is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. In 2007, floods affected 1.5 million people across several countries in Africa, including Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia and Niger. Alluvial flooding is common for major rivers — such as Nile, Niger, Benue, Orange, Zambezi—in Africa. Major cities in Africa are also susceptible to fluvial flooding, which occurs when excessive rainfall, over an extended period of time, causes rivers to overflow.”

Experts proffer solutions

An ecologist and climate change expert, Chiagozie Udeh, in a chat with Daily Sun, said government and individuals have roles to play in curtailing the devastating effects of climate change and flooding in Nigeria.

“The continued flood disaster owes much to the spiralling effect of climate change. Increase in heat waves across the world is causing more rainfall, extreme rainfall and melting ice caps, leading to rise in sea level. It did not just start, it has been recurring for the last six years in Nigeria. Lack of preparation amplifies its effects. There are also times when excess water is released from dams and it floods the whole space.

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“Owing to the fact that most cities in Nigeria are poorly planned, the impact is even more damaging. Affected states should make spirited efforts to ensure that their cities are resilient and future plans
for building modelled to reflect that. Build modern drainage systems and ensure solid wastes are not blocking flood channels. It is also important that ministries of health are prepared and placed on alert in case of a likely breakout of diseases such as cholera and more.

“We also need to reach out to the global community as we cannot do much in terms of emission reduction, as we contribute less than 2 per cent of global carbon emission. We need the commitment of big emitters like the G7 to reduce their carbon emissions as countries like ours will remain at the frontline of its effects.”

Meanwhile, Anambra State Government has announced the establishment of 29 holding centres for flood victims in case of emergencies, where affected individuals and communities can take shelter and benefit from government relief measures, including medical treatment.

The executive secretary, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Chief Paul Odenigbo, in a statement, advised people to leave their places anytime they notice signs of unusual flooding, regardless of whether they can swim or not. He said government was providing boreholes, sanitary facilities, water ambulances, speed boats and life jackets.

The holding centres are located in designated places in eight local government areas of the state, including Ayamelum, Anambra East, Ogbaru, Onitsha North and South, Awka North, Ihiala and Ekwusigo.

 

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