Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management a Panacea to Flood Disaster in Africa

By Grace Adebo (ELP 2012)
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Flooding in Africa in 2012 was unprecedented. According to UNOCHA (2012), over 1.5 million people were affected by floods in 13 countries from West and Central Africa with an estimated death record of 340 people. Niger, Chad, Senegal and Nigeria accounted for over 90 percent of the identified affected people struck by torrential rain. In Nigeria, virtually all parts of the country witnessed a flood disaster with 19 out of the 36 states being affected. According to NEMA, an estimated total of 173 Nigerians lost their lives and 134,381 persons were affected by the floods. Several farmlands were destroyed with thousands of grain reserve lost in the process. Over 500 communities in Niger State were affected and over 47 people were killed. Over 1,000 farm families were displaced while farm products worth billions of naira were also lost as a result. Areas that had never imagined would be flooded also recorded destructive incidents. Four Local Government Areas in Anambra State were virtually submerged by floods. Higher institutions in these areas were not left out as most were closed down after some of their students lost their books and household items while some campuses were used as refugee camps. Accessibility to some communities was made possible only by canoe/boat as most of the roads were completely submerged and had turned to deep streams. Many of the old, sick and injured were trapped in various affected communities, as they could not get to the refugee camps. Spaces in most camps were inadequate because of unhygienic and inappropriate conditions. It was also reported that snakes, crocodiles, and even hippopotamuses were carried along by the floods and scared most people from returning to their homes from the refugee camps, as they were unsure of what they would return to.

What are the major causes of flooding?

Monsoons, which sweep across West Africa between June and October, and Climate Change were the major causes of these floods. Torrential rains affected rivers and oceans within the region and caused ocean surges and rivers to flow beyond their banks. These natural disasters were also compounded by human activities and bad governance manifested in the form of environmental degradation; urbanization and poverty; blockage of water ways; migration of people to flood prone areas as a result of immense human pressure on flood plains; lack of physical and financial resources to cope with flood disasters; inexistence/improper implementation of flood mitigation plans in flood prone areas; neglect of rural areas from flood mitigation policies; weak social security and monitoring systems; and use of top up approach in policy formulation and implementations.

Suggested solutions

Thus far, the efforts made in some countries to solve flood challenges have not yielded any appreciable results because they have not been sustainable. Sustainability refers to the capacity to endure through renewal, maintenance and sustenance or nourishment, in contrast to durability, the capacity to endure through unchanging resistance to change.

On the global scale, principles of sustainability and environmental management involve management of oceans, fresh water systems, land and atmosphere. Alterations in proportions of land usage for agriculture, forest, grassland, pasture and urbanization could also affect global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles for urbanization. There is therefore a need for urgent environmental resource management with the goal to maintain and improve the state of an environment’s resources affected by human activities.

Image iconphoto1-300x182_2.jpgThe high level of destruction of life and properties as a result of flooding could be abated if the following measures are taken into consideration:

  • Creation of awareness and public enlightenment on Climate Change, flooding, its causes, associated problems and subsequent effects.
  • Evolve practices for efficient resource usage and effective waste management practices.
  • Formulation and implementation of sustainable environmental resource management policies and practices.
  • Development of flood prevention, mitigation and response strategies specific to each State and Local Government Area.
  • Adoption of flood mitigation programmes into a national development framework.
  • Development of community based disaster management with active participation from communities and stakeholders.
  • Capacity building of citizenry in relation to flood management strategies.
  • Enact and implement laws on water ways management that stress punishment for defaulters.
  • Climate change issues to be treated as a top priority.

Sustainable environmental management is germane to livelihoods all over the world and African nations need to rise up to this challenge.