Since its creation in the late 1880s by Lord Lugard, Port Harcourt the Rivers State capital had been a city under transition. Like every other big cities of the world it is confronted with a principal municipal problem, urbanisation. Urban renewal policies in Rivers State cost great fortunes yet there are still grave hinderances in the urbanisation process which are yet to received deserving attention. The city of Port Harcourt is said to have started within the coastal axis popularly known as town. This particular part of the city enjoys good architectural plans and road network.
While most parts of Port Harcourt groan under the pains of perennial flooding, the town axis still enjoy good drainage system as the water empties into the river immediately after the rains. As the drive for the prime objective of the city swells, there is equally a growing demand for accommodation.
Consequently, the city is besieged with a spiraling growth in shanties at every available space. Natural drainages are converted to building spaces for make shifts apartments of vague descriptions.
Rumukalagbor in Port Harcourt city local government is one of the areas in the city were such shanties exist. During the last rains the area was one of the worst hit by flooding with most of the houses in the area built on natural drains and forlom vegetations, residents watched their houses flooded as refuse heaps emptied its debries in peoples parlour and rooms. Investigation reveal that natural streams were heaped above water levels and houses are built on them during dry seasons and advertised to unsuspecting tenants who suffers the pains during the rains. When our reporter visited the area, it was discovered that debris of demolished structures are carried in trucks to fill the natural drainages for building purposes. Some prominent politicians are also said to be culpable in the act as they acquire the natural vegetations and drainages, elevated them above water levels and fenced with high walls before erecting their structures.
Abacha road axis is one of the areas that had lost its natural vegetation to land acquisitors and developers. The major flooding experienced within that part of the Garden City is attributed to indiscriminate building of houses on the natural vegetation.
In a recent press interview, Rivers State commissioner for works, Dakuku Peterside said the ministry of works in conjunction with the ministry of urban development had concluded plans to demolish all houses on natural drainages and waterways to lessen the burden of flood in the city. He further disclosed that the inter-ministerial committee on deflooding will be sustained by the ministry to check the problems of flooding in the city. Residents of Rumukalagbor community are however anxious that the government should intervene and save them the embarrassment of perennial flooding in the area, resulting from indiscriminate building of houses. A resident of the area, Mr Ehinda Amadi is worried that the flooding is increasing on yearly basis as more houses are build on the right of drainages. He said when the ‘big men’ buy the land, the first thing they do is to build high fenced walls like formidable fortress, ostensibly to avoid encroachment, while the down trodden are left to their fate. He called for the demolition of all buildings on natural drainages to ease the natural flow of water during the rains. Another issue of concern in the urban renewal policy of the Rivers State government is the unplanned conversion of villages and community settlement into city status. Dickson Akota, an environmental scientist, said the coaxing of existing community settlements into city status had stifled attempts by governments to make Port Harcourt a better place for living “inspite of the huge investment in urban renewal policies in the state, Port Harcourt is yet to attain orderly planning in buildings and scenery like Calabar, there should be disparity between a community and city life”. He added that community settlements are noted for its rustic nature but when they are hurriedly converted into city status they constitute the nuisance of flooding and permanent defacement of the city. It could be recalled that the chairman Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, Aleruchi Cookey-Gam during a major press briefing in Port Harcourt cautioned against the tendency of people acquiring and erecting buildings on natural drainages. Cookey-Gam said such houses irrespective of the high positions of the owners will be demolished for effective drainage system.