Responding To Flood Alert

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In what evidently has become a recurring annual ritual, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its sister agency, Nigeria Metrological Agency (NiMET) warned recently that several coastal states, including Rivers, will suffer heavy rainfall with its resultant severe flooding.
NEMA, for instance, predicted that no fewer than 11 out of the 23 Local Governments, especially in flood-prone Areas of the state, would witness severe flooding, areas due to eventual rise in sea level and tidal waves.
NEMA’s South-South Zonal Co-ordinator, Mr Ibarakumo Walson, explained that this year’s flooding would supersede that of 2018, especially against the backdrop of NiMET’s forecast which listed areas such as Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Andoni, Abua/Odual, Ahoada East, Ahoada West, Akuku-Toru, Asari-Toru, Gokana, Ogu/Bolo, Okrika, Etche, Oyigbo, Tai, Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas that will be worst hit.
While The Tide acknowledges the awareness NEMA has created over the years on flooding menace in the state, we are particularly disturbed by the fact that the agency had not been fair to the state in terms of distribution of funds and relief materials to affected states.
Besides NEMA’s unfair treatment to Rivers State, we painfully observe that the much-desired synergy by relevant stakeholders to mitigate the devastating effects of flooding on lives and properties has been literarily non existence over the past few years.
While we acknowledge the poor town planning penchant by developers to shun physical and urban planning codes as well as indifferent attitude of residents to sanitary and waste disposal ethics to flooding, especially in our urban cities, we believe that governments at various levels have not done enough to tackle and swiftly respond to such flood disasters.
Inhabitants, residents and communities in flood-prone areas must not go to sleep with their two eyes closed as they have a critical role to play in sensitizing their people, even as we knock government agencies and developers on the head for throwing all known rules of urban development to the dogs.
While we implore the State Government to redouble its effort in clearing major drains in the cities, spot checks by officers of Ministries of Environment, Urban and Physical Planning as well as the state Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) need to be more pragmatic and proactive to check flooding.
Infact, the environmental habit and conduct of most urban dwellers leave much to be desired, and, unless there are strict supervisions and sanctions against erring city dwellers, flooding may continue to ravage the State. A situation where residents gleefully block drainage systems with solid materials is unacceptable.
It is also unacceptable that at this point of societal development, people still act as though only government has the responsibility of tackling environmental challenges resulting from flood.
As The Tide implores RIWAMA and the Ministry of Environment to collaborate with other relevant bodies to mitigate the effects of the imminent flood, domestic and industrial waste must be properly disposed off in order not to constitute environmental hazards that could worsen the situation as the worst period of the rainy season sets in.
It is sad and unacceptable that despite the presence of NEMA office in the state, its officials are hardly seen before, during and after flood disasters. It is a clear indication that NEMA is failing on its mandate.
It is against this backdrop that we advocate the establishment of a State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to fill the vacuum created by NEMA in the state.
SEMA, if established, will provide the needed synergy between the State Government and all relevant stakeholders in tackling the perennial flooding in the state. We believe that SEMA, if floated, will be provided with adequate manpower and facilities for quick response to distress calls in times of flooding.
We urge relevant authorities to continuously desilt canals, creeks, drainages and waterways even as residents who form the habit of dumping solid wastes indiscriminately desist forthwith in order to achieve a flood-free environment in the state.
To avoid the impact from the degree of flooding as predicted, State and Local Government authorities must begin now to provide shelter and relief materials for potential flood victims. This is moreso, as past experiences revealed how food, drugs and other items meant for victims were diverted to unknown destinations and finally ended up in the open market.
The time to act is now!