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What hope for coastal communities as sea level rises

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Coastal communities are constantly under threat of survival due to sea level rise, which has increased their vulnerability to loss of livelihood, property and land area.

The situation usually becomes worst during wet season due to heavy rain falls. Nigeria, especially the Niger Delta communities experience yearly excess rain fall because of its topography. This has been further worsened by climate change impacts.

Most communities across Nigeria face different climate change impacts. From coastal/gully erosion to ocean surge and flooding, these communities watch helplessly as these natural disasters wash away their ancestral homes, valuable assets and means of livelihoods.

In Rivers State, coastal communities like Kula, Andoni and Okujagu-ama are vulnerable to sea hyacinth and erosion whenever the rainy season sets. Others in Abua/Odual, Ahoada East, Ahoada West and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGAs suffer annual flooding. Again, several communities in Anambra, Imo, Enugu and Abia States suffer gully erosions.

Bayelsa and Delta state communities are also not left out. Majority of Bayelsa State communities are being threatened due to its deltaic nature. Bayelsa state sits below sea level as such communities are vulnerable, especially during rainy seasons.

On daily basis people wake up to the stark reality of watching helplessly as heavy wave wash their homes away.

Such communities as Twon-Brass, Okpoama, Diema, Kiama, Abobiri, Odioma, Canaan, Sangana, Famgbe, amongst others, all suffer coastal erosion, water hyacinth and sea surge.

In March this year, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), announced that it would tackle the erosion scourge in Sangana community, Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

This, according to the Managing Director, NDDC, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, during a visit to the community, was a presidential directive for urgent action to ameliorate the sufferings of the people.

He said : “We had earlier awarded the contract for shore protection in your community, but we are going to review it.  The whole idea in NDDC is that we are also looking at new technology such as the Geotube system. The system is also used in rebuilding and reclaiming the land naturally.

“Having ascertained the situation on the ground, we will go back and put the papers together and also see how we can partner with the state government and the International Oil Companies (IOCs) to see how we can all come together to ensure that we protect our communities.”

This step was greeted with hope and smiles on the faces of the Sangana people and stakeholders alike, as the  Chairman, Sangana Council of Traditional Rulers, Moses Kenibara VII, Amadabo of Moko-Ama Sangana, thanked the president for the love showered on the people of the community.

Shortly after the visit, foremost environmentalist, Morris Alagoa, urged the NDDC to match action with words.

Alagoa, who is the Programme Manager, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, Niger Delta Resource Center, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, said, doing this will restore the people’s livelihood and save them from impending extinction.

But two months after the visit, the seeming urgency with which the NDDC boss spoke is yet to translate to action, as no work has commenced on the project, even as the rain begin to.take its toll.

The Sangana scenario is one example among several dashed hopes for communities facing climate change impacts across Nigeria. As sea levels begin the rise, the people are once again left between fate and government failed promises and inaction.

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