Over 90 per cent of gully erosions in Nigeria are caused by poor termination of drains during road construction activities, the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) has said.
Mr Salisu Dahiru, National Coordinator of NEWMAP, disclosed this to newsmen on the sideline of the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), on Thursday in New Delhi, India.
The NEWMAP boss said that most civil contractors in Nigeria failed to comply with the regulation that drains from road construction should be properly terminated at natural streams and other lower catchment areas, and not few meters from the roadside.
“A lot of studies, we conducted, indicated that over 90 per cent of the gullies were as a result of poorly terminated drains during road construction activities.
“This is coupled with the fact that the soil in the South East, where these gullies are common, is soft, loose and has already lost its vegetation cover.
“So, when heavy rain falls directly on a loose bare soil, the force and volume of the water end up hitting and eroding the soil little by little until it becomes deep and wide gully,’’ Dahiru said.
According to him, gully formation and gully development are the most extreme types of land degradation in Nigeria.
The NEWMAP coordinator said that every road design stipulates that drains must be properly terminated.
He blamed ministries of works at the three tiers of government for lack of thorough supervision.
“The responsibility is on the Ministry of Works, not on the contractor, to make sure that contractors carry out road construction projects in accordance with design specification.
“That is why we are putting the responsibility of ensuring that these drains are well terminated on the relevant government agency that is awarding and supervising the project.’’
He, however, said that NEWMAP had embarked on further dialogue with relevant government agencies responsible for supervising road projects in the country, with a view to enhancing the capacities of these institutions.
NEWMAP has invited relevant agencies “to partner with us so that we can have a well-harmonised policy on road construction in Nigeria.
“Once federal, states and local governments agree to implement the harmonised policy, we can now extract some regulations out of the policy, which can be jointly enforced by various layers of government’’.
He said that gully erosion had cut off many communities and led to loss of lives, livelihoods and property, including public infrastructure such as roads, rail lines, water and electricity installations.
“So, restoring this land has been of prime-most importance to us and the community, and the World Bank came to the rescue,’’ Dahiru said.
He said that NEWMAP, whose mandate was to address gully erosion at targeted watersheds, as well as other forms of land degradation, had implemented some intervention projects in over 50 gully erosion sites in 21 states across the country.
“We have tackled those gullies that are at the highest stage of destruction; we stopped them in their tracks using very complex engineering design that fits the nature of the terrain.
“After that, we then stabilised the constructed channels, supported by bio-remediation of tree planting and grassing to restore the soil cover, shield it from direct sunlight and bind it closely,’’ he said.
Dahiru said that the “$400 million eight-year World Bank intervention project” being managed by NEWMAP was aimed at reducing vulnerability to soil erosion in targeted sub watersheds.
According to him, the project has had successfully restored some of the gullies.
On NEWMAP’s sustainability after the project, and after World Bank funding ends in 2021, Dahiru said the project should be mainstreamed into the environmental policy agenda of the country.
“We must have an institutional arrangement whereby all the investments that have been made into the project be put together in an agency of government to continue its activities.
“Also, there are specific funding windows such as the Ecological Fund that the project can access with the development agenda of the country.’’
According to him, some states have already institutionalised the project by linking it up directly with their Ecological Fund.
Over 8,000 delegates, including UN Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Amina Muhammed, UNCCD Executive-Secretary, Ibrahim Thiaw, ministers and heads of UN agencies are attending the Conference, whose theme is “Investing in Restoration to Unlock Opportunities”.
COP14, which ends Friday, is expected to adopt over 30 decisions and a few country-led initiatives on the actions governments will take to reverse land degradation, especially over the next two years and beyond.
The international community had adopted the Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on June 17, 1994, out of concern that desertification and drought are problems of global dimension affecting all regions.
In 2015, the international community also agreed to pursue a global target to ensure all countries work towards keeping a healthy balance of productive land by accelerating the recovery of degrading lands, while avoiding and reducing land degradation.