The environment stakeholders in the South-east of Nigeria has raised concern over the adverse effects of gully erosion on the land mass, agriculture and roads in the zone.
The stakeholders made this observations known while responding to a survey on “Erosion and Desertification”.
Permanent Secretary in the Anambra State Ministry of Environment, Mr Emmanuel Okafor, said in Awka, the state capital, that there were over 1,000 active gully erosion sites in the state.
Okafor said gully erosion was shrinking the land mass of Anambra such that the state which was rated second smallest behind Lagos was fast becoming the state with the smallest land mass in the country.
The permanent secretary said the effect included gradual disappearance of available land for agriculture, collapse of buildings, and destruction of roads.
He said the increasing reduction in the available land was taking a toll on the society as people engaged in conflicts because of scramble for land for farming and living.
“Because of the problem of gully erosion, there is an increasing number in the cases of land dispute in the state now,” Okafor said.
He said the state government was working on, 100 cases including about 20 being handled by the jointly funded Nigeria Erosion Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) which he said might be terminated by the middle of the year.
Okafor said the erosion menace in Anambra was so huge that the government could not control the incidences on its own.
He appealed to residents of Anambra to imbibe culture of healthy environmental practices like proper disposal of waste, good collection, and channelling of rainwater in homes, and professional termination of drainage by construction firms.
In Enugu, the Head of Department, Climate Change, Enugu State Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Mr Nnamdi Arum, said no fewer than eight local government areas in the state were affected by erosion.
Arum said most communities in Enugu North Senatorial District, especially Udenu and Igboeze North Local Government Areas, were under serious erosion threat, and something urgent must be done to save the situation.
He said that the state was also affected by desertification, though on a marginal scale.
Arum said that both environmental hazards activities in the area, leading to threats in the quest for food security in the state.
“About eight local government areas have issues with gullies. The issue of erosion and desertification actually caused the extinction of arable crops, land degradation and soil sterilisation,” he said.
Arum said that several families had been displaced and properties worth billions of naira wiped out in the area due to the erosion menace.
He, however, commended the Federal Government for its ecological programmes which led to intervention by the NEWMAP.
Arum said that the agency had carried out some major intervention projects in the state, adding that more works still needed to be done.
“NEWMAP was set up by the Federal Government as a solution to some ecological issues and it has received much support from the state government through the payment of counterpart funds,” he said.
Arum expressed concern that the activities of some categories of people in the state were responsible for desertification, adding that the ministry was making efforts to combat such.
In Abia, Mr Izuchukwu Onwughara, the Project Manager of NEWMAP in the state, blamed human activities for the pervasive erosion menace in the state.
Onwughara said in Umuahia, the state capital, that the South-East was susceptible to erosion because of the soil texture, high rainfall, high population density and undulating terrain.
He said that erosion had been on the increase because people failed to take certain precautionary measures to keep their environment safe, especially with the rising impact of climate change.
“Human activities help to worsen the occurrence of erosion and I urge people to desist from engaging in activities that exacerbate the menace.
People should reduce the incidence of building interlocking stones in their environments because they help to increase runoff, which forms storm water that increases erosion power.
It is advisable to form the habit of planting grasses and trees in our surroundings or neighbourhood and practice water harvesting to reduce runoff.
“In the instance of infrastructure development, we advise that proper drainage system should be built to ensure that storm water is channelled very well to safe disposal points,” Onwughara explained.