Preparing for heavy rainfall, floods


FOR 19 states and 56 communities across the country, there is no respite from the ravages of flooding. The National Emergency Management Agency has just re-issued the alarm that Lagos, Delta, Anambra, Nasarawa among others should prepare for heavy rainfall this month and likely destructive inundation. They and the Federal Government should promptly mount defensive measures to cope with the impending natural challenge.

In 2022, 662 Nigerians were killed, 2.43 million others displaced and 3,174 injured nationwide following floods, says NEMA. The losses were estimated at $9.12 billion by the Federal Government, and by a United Nations agency at $7 billion.

Previous nonchalance by the three tiers has therefore cost the country dearly and should not be repeated.

Nigerians are undergoing unprecedented hardship, poverty, and insecurity. The government should therefore go beyond just advising residents of flood-prone areas to relocate to higher ground. The ability of many, especially the most vulnerable, to provide succour for themselves is doubtful. The various governments and their relevant agencies should therefore prepare realistic resettlement plans.

In other parts of the world, governments build ‘tent camps’ ahead of disaster warnings where large areas are cleared, and tents erected, beddings provided, and sanitation, health and security and education facilities also provided.

Nigeria should also adopt pre-emptive policies such as de-silting of rivers, maintaining drainage systems and building dams and levees. These should complement the usual reactive measures like humanitarian intervention and relief materials provided to displaced persons.

Flooding and other natural disasters are global problems, exacerbated by climate change. Heavy rainfall, floods, wildfires, drought, storms and hurricanes have become commonplace across the world. The Centre for Disaster Philanthropy, a non-profit, has this year tracked floods in United States; cyclones in New Zealand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh; wildfires in the US, Mexico, and Canada; and hurricanes and earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

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Like other countries, Nigeria must respond creatively and effectively to weather changes through strategic interventions, enacting environmental protection policies and compliance. The citizens too must cultivate an environment-friendly culture and clear the drainages within their neighbourhoods.

States and LGs should take advance disaster warnings seriously. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the Nigeria Hydrological Agency, and NEMA had separately issued warnings in January and March 2023 that flood cases are likely to surpass the disaster in 2022. Extended rainfall witnessed between January and July has already delivered flash floods in parts of the country.

Government should curb human activities that block primary, secondary and tertiary drains. The culture of dumping refuse into drains, canals and rivers by Nigerians needs to be stopped by federal, state, and local government environmental agencies through strong surveillance and stiff legal penalties. Public enlightenment will also help, as well as involving traditional rulers and other community leaders to ensure climate change-compliant waste disposal systems.

Government should prioritise physical planning and quality infrastructure. Experts say that states are adversely affected by flooding due to a deficit in planning, infrastructure and quality control. Professionals need to be engaged to help restructure and design towns and cities with modern infrastructure that align with climate change realities.

State governments should deploy their ecological funds to create infrastructure to dam excess rainfall for agriculture and power generation, create and maintain drainages consistently.

The affected states should not be caught unprepared this time.


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