The Coordinator of Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) in Abia State, Engr. Izuchukwu Onwughara, spoke on the level of implementation of projects to control erosion in the state and more. Excerpt:
How has NEWMAP fared in Abia state?
NEWMAP being a World Bank assisted project aimed at reducing poverty, has a developmental objective to reduce the vulnerability to erosion in the sub-catchment areas in response to the challenges of gully erosion and emerging land degradation and environmental insecurity.
The eight-year innovative, multi-sectoral project finances state led interventions to prevent and reverse land degradation, initially focusing on gully erosion sites that threaten infrastructures and livelihoods in the seven states in the South-east and South -south namely Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Rivers, Edo and Cross River.
Abia State was one of the first pilot states where the operation of NEWMAP started in the South-east following the intervention of the President on the need for the zone to be saved from erosion menace.
In 2012, the project started in Abia but was not effective until 2014 when contractors were engaged by the state governor, then Senator Theodore Orji, but the real action started in 2015.
I want to state clearly here that the intervention is owned by the state government and not NDDC.The World Bank provides the fund while the state pays counterpart fund.
The operation is focused and has direction by using a selection process depending on the seriousness of the project. What I mean is that projects are prioritised subject to the approval of the government’s technical and steering committees.
What are the achievements so far in the state?
NEWMAP has recorded a huge success in Abia State. The first projects on gully erosion were in Umuezelukwu Nsulu in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, Amuzukwu in Umuahia North Council Area, Amuda Achara in Isochi in Umunochi Local Government Area, Dodd Methodist Church Izuakoli in Bende Local Government Area and Eluama Uke in Ohafia in Ohafia Local Government Area.
The first three were successfully designed and by 2014, contractors were engaged but work commenced in 2016 after compensation was paid. As I speak with you, Umuezelaukwu Nsulu gully erosion project has successfully been completed. That of Amuzukwu is nearing completion. At Amada Achara Isochi, the work is in progress and by March 2019, it would be completed.
The project in Umuogele in Umuakwu in Isiala Ngwa North Council Area is at 80 per cent completion. In Umuagu Ibeku and Umuda Isingwu the job there has reached 95 per cent completion stage including 5km internal roads within the areas that are ongoing.
This intervention is by the Abia State government but the World Bank provides the fund. The state also provides other empowerments to communities subject to World Bank approval. The empowerments include poultry farming, fishery, piggery, cassava farming, and other community developmental projects, all in form of corporative societies and the aim was to assuage and reduce abject poverty.
The elderly are rehabilitated through a non-refundable grant. Abia South is more of flood than erosion. Urata and Umuagbai flood would be channeled to Aba River. All the designs have been approved and early next year, the job would begin. The essence of this is to protect the area against flood.
What challenges did you encounter?
The most challenging aspect of our job was how to meet up with the expectations of the people. In Abia State, by geographical information system mapping, 279 official erosion gullies were recorded and these need attention but the fund was not available.
We want increased counterpart funding to enable NEWMAP meet with its obligations. The State NEWMAP has so far drawn up to $25 million since its inception. Apart from gully erosion and other degradations, the projects also employ youth.
What more do you want to say?
I want to state here that Abia State Government is sensitive to the problem of erosion in the communities and that is why it does not hesitate to release counterpart funding any time the need arises.
The governor has promised the payment of N1billion counterpart fund to NEWMAP and very soon that payment will be made.