One effort of Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi in the two years of his administration is the unwavering drive towards actualising the concept of a Greater Port Harcourt City.
A modern, well planned and consciously developed city that will not only decongest the already over-populated old city of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, but a one that will lay a solid foundation for infrastructural explosion with the highest economic potentialities and become the hub of business activities not only in the hydro carbon industry but also in the tourism sector of the nation’s economy.
Before the unveiling of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the Governor Amaechi led administration had in March, this year, set up the mechanism to achieve a transformed city with the setting up of the Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority (GPCDA), headed by former Attorney-General of the State, Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam.
The survey works on the expansive city urbation project are almost fully concluded considering the length and breath of the scheme.
About eight local government areas are expected to fall into the new city of Port Harcourt with the gradual sprawl witnessed over the years. They include Port Harcourt itself, Obio/Akpor, Eleme, Etche, Ikwerre, Oyigbo, Okrika and Ogu/Bolo Local Government Areas.
The first phase is expected to stretch from the Choba axis to the Ogu waterfront, now billed to house the new sea port, if all plans go as planned.
The Tide investigations reveal that the phase 1A Project would hover round the Omagwa – Eneka axis.
Put together by Dutch consultants after proper considering the States’ topographical resemblance to that of Netherlands, the plan is broken down into sub-phases with three major landmark institutions serving as development magnets. They include the Karibi Whyte International Hospital, the new Rivers State University of Science and Technology campus and the Airport.
The Dutch consultant, Mr. Nicholas said: The design has a rational approach to give room for open spaces and accommodate storm water, which he said seems to be the nucleons of the plan considering the typographical nature of those areas tilting South-East of the Airport.
Though those areas would be well connected with grade A, B and C roads, Nicholas observed that the plan envisages to tackle the city’s flooding problem by making sure that all storm waters are channeled to the appropriate areas of dislodge. This includes the Ogbogoro and the Choba axis that have natural water outlets.
On the transport system the designers demarcated the roads into three levels, course 1, 2 and 3. Course three roads encompass the built up area and would support course two roads to course one towards reducing traffic jams, now at a horrible level in Port Harcourt Township.
Nicholas averred that phase one consists of large use of land consisting the hospital and university. “In the centre there would be quite a lot of schools to be built with lots of open spaces, while, the residential areas consists of the higher density areas.
With two waste management sites at the East and the Northern parts of the city, solid waste disposal would be easily tackled, Nicholas further averred.
Both low and high cost residential apartments are provided for, but the major one is the 30,000 residential units, that would go with schools, shopping, complexes and supporting service estates.
While most donor communities are apprehensive of the new development, the EIA report according to the authority is expected to cushion those effects.
Mr. Awani Osuamkpe, a consultant, explained that the EIA exercise is aimed at ensuring that communities who donate their land have sustainable development.
He disclosed that the EIA process went through various stages including the intent stage, consultation with communities during which time the agency toured the areas. Scoping and filter gathering process which is the last stage of the exercise is aimed at getting the feedback from the affected communities.
At the workshop, representatives of the land donor communities expressed fears that the Urban expansion programme would deny the people their means of livelihood family heritage and natural environment. It was during the interactive session that Governor Chibuike Amaechi in his usual down to earth manner beamed light on the master plan. I’m not an Urban planner but to me the master plan is simple the way I understand it,” he declared.
He argued that the plan is purely aimed at decongesting Port Harcourt, noting that it would also create employment and development to the people.
Prior to the implementation of the master plan the Governor stated that adequate compensation are being paid to land owners. According to him government paid up to N300,000 per plot of land.
He also asserted, “The plan is called Greater Port Harcourt City because there would be no ownership controversy.”
The Governor explained that the city stretches from the Airport to the Sea Port terminating at Ikpokiri, a boundary community that shares borders with Onne.
To divide both sides of the plan from the Governor’s explanation is the Otamiri River. A six lane carriage way he stated, is expected to run through the middle going through Eneka to the sea Port.
Amaechi declared, “So many houses would go down, that is why we don’t want to delay because it would cost more if we demolish in the future.”
He warned landlords and land speculators in Rumukurushi, Elelenwo, Akpajo and Eleme to stop building indiscriminately saying the road is expected to run through these communities to terminate at the sea port, and advised land and property owners to consult the agency before building since majority of land stretching from the Airport area to Eleme are now government owned by the specifications of the master plan.
Due to lack of land in the Okrika axis, Amaechi said the area would enjoy land filling to provide more land for the high-brow housing, “you know lots of the big people would like to live near the waterside, but we are equally going to build low cost housing areas to balance the situation”.
From the Governor’s explanation, the Onne – Ogu axis would serve as the centre for the proposed Energy City with a sea port at Ogu. According to him “Eleme and Onne axis would have light and heavy industrial zones and we are also incorporating the International market into that axis as well.
Administrator of the GPCDA, Dame Aleruchi Cookey-Gam hinted that the master plan would last for 50 years; hence it would be a sustainable project that would be implemented by successive Governments after the present one.
She dispelled fears that some of the communities would be relocated, but rather declared, “We expect that as development takes place it would spread to adjoining communities to affect them positively.”
In order to check the effect of such huge urban expansion scheme, Cookey-Gam assured donor communities that the government would take their welfare at heart.
Amieyeofori Ibim & Kelvin Nengia