Ibadan, the Oyo State capital appears to be a synonym for flood going by its record of flood and the attendant havoc in the past few years. LAOLU AFOLABI examines, in this report, whether this is an act of God, human factor, environmental factor or a combination of the points. His report.
Oh! Who have I offended? Why did this happen to me? All my belongings are gone. Why must this happen at this time?” were on the lips of many of victims of Ibadan flood while recounting their ordeals at Gbekuba, Apata, Ibadan and Omi-Adio area in Ido Local Government Area of the state, last week. It was, indeed, tale of woes. Many people were rendered homeless; some had their properties destroyed while valuables and wares of many others got lost in a ravaging flood that followed a “gentle” rain of that fateful Wednesday night.
To many, the gods must actually be angry, at least to have unleashed such unfortunate calamity on the people at this time of economic distress. Residents of Gbekuba area of Apata had many of their houses pulled down by the flood. Some perimeter fences gave way for the floodwater, cars and others valuables got destroyed. A popular farm in the area lost undisclosed number of birds and fishes to the flood. Traders in Omi-Adio would not recover from the shock in time, as they also lost fortunes to the incident. They never dreamt that their meadow would be engulfed by ravaging floodwater, emptying their goods into the furious Omi River.
In 2011, there was a similar occurrence. The flood at the time also followed a “gentle” rain which was on for almost a day. The resultant effect was the flooding of some areas in the town. Houses were submerged, vehicles damaged and washed ashore. Houses along Ona River and Ogunpa River, from Ibuko end were affected. Those at the Eleiyele plain also suffered blows. Many bridges on some of the rivers collapsed, giving way for whatever on them to become submersible. Some people got drowned and there were many casualties.
The incident of 2011, though fresh in memory, was, however, not the first in the city. In 1960, more than 1,000 residents were rendered homeless when the Ogunpa River exceeded its banks. More than 500 houses were damaged in 1963 when the river again flooded the city. In 1978, official record confirmed that 32 bodies were retrieved from the ruins of the flood, even as more than 100 houses were destroyed. It was, however, the flood of 1980 that gave “Ogunpa” a national and international notoriety. After about 10 hours of downpour recorded as four times heavier than it was during the 1978 flood, Ibadan was virtually left in ruins. More than 100 bodies were retrieved from the debris of collapsed houses and vehicles washed away by the deluge. Alas! The days of Omiyale may be here again, God forbids.
A pertinent question to ask is: Why is the resurgence of flooding in Ibadan? The trend from 2011 showed that the days of 70s spanning to its submersible state in 1980 may be here. From 1960 to 1963, 1978 and finally the catastrophe of 1980 seems to follow the pattern of 2011 to 2016 and who knows when again. Until 1970, Ibadan was the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa. The developed land area of Ibadan increased from 100 hectares in 1830 to more than 400km2 at present. The reasons for growth, according to Professor Samuel Babatunde Agbola in his 2013 Adegoke Adelabu Memorial Lecture, with the title: “Masterplan for Ibadan,” were the presence of railway station in Ibadan at that time; the city itself being the administrative headquarters of the Western Nigeria and later Western Region; the 1948 founding of the University College, which later became University of Ibadan; the presence of the University College Hospital, the first in West Africa and many others.
Despite growth in population, the rate of urbanisation in Ibadan is, however, very low. The population was over 60,000 in 1856, over 200,000 in 1890; 238,094 in 1921; 386,359 in 1931 and, according to 2006 census estimates, the population was 2,550,593. The projected estimate for 2010, using 3.2 per cent growth rate is about 2,893,137 and 3,191,339 for 2013. Ibadan continues to expand in land mass and population. In its anthem, it is concluded that Ibadan is a city filled with migrants and the development had led to exponential increase in its population. As the population increases, therefore, the hydrological system of the town is continuously being tampered with.
Speaking on the development, the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, CENRAD, Ibadan, Dr Jide Ladipo, an expert on forestry, said destruction of hydrological system, deforestation, dredging of hills without recourse to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), dumping of wastes on water courses, among others, are reasons flood will stay longer in Ibadan. Topographies, he noted, are created over thousands of years and it is part of the hydrological system of the environment. Changes and dislocation of hills, mountains and stabilised topographies through dredging for sand, according to him, will result in total destabilisation of the hydrological system which the forest had been created by the nature to control.
After massive deforestation earlier by the people, the colonial government restored the watershed in 1958, with the conservator of the forest, Mr Thompson, seeing to massive planting of trees on all water courses in Ibadan. Gene bank was cultivated and established to combat flooding and degradation of the topography. The development, Dr Ladipo said, was to restore the hydrological system in the city. Among the water courses he listed were Eleiyele Lake, which was established in 1941; Alalubosa Lake; Agodi Lake, etc. These days, however, he lamented that rivers are disappearing with indication of massive erosion going on, leaving many rivers with red earth water, instead of clean water. The Eleiyele lake has lost 60 per cent of its depth. The remaining 40 per cent cannot take the water it was originally designed to hold.
The British colonial government had established forest reserves between 1916 and 1941. They were Alalubosa forest reserves in 1916; Ogunpa forest reserves in 1931; Oke Aremo forest reserves in 1932 and Eleiyele forest reserves in 1941. Trees like cassia, teak, lagerstroemia, among others were planted to populate the forest. By 1984, however, the vegetal cover of the land mass of Ibadan had reduced drastically, giving way to urban development. In 12 years, between 1972 and 1984, according to Professor Agbola in his article, about 17.14km2 of vegetal cover disappeared yearly and by 2012, total percentage of land use for settlement was 72.5; vegetal cover, 26.2 and water body having 1.4 per cent. Between 1984 and 2000, there was great urban development as a result of influx of people into the town. This shows that the city is being taken over spontaneously by anthropogenic activities but it is regrettable that the town has no functional master plan.
Ibadan is surrounded by seven hills. There is the Oke Mapo, Oke Aremo, Mokola, Oke Ado, Oke Are, Oke Bola and Oke’badan. All these hills form the topography of the town. Also with the hills are rivers, streams and lakes. Aside the Eleiyele and Agodi lakes, there is the Omi River, Ona River (popularly called Odo Ona). There is also the Alalubosa river, Onireke river, Oniyere river, Ogbere river, among others. Those who founded the city actually thought of water, as it is essential to their survival. So its natural water courses are part of the hydrological system stabilising the topography. In the words of Dr Ladipo, the hydrological system had been traumatised, especially with the impact of dredging by tippers, leaving rivers in the town silted and reduced in size and volume. Eleiyele Lake, for instance, he said had lost about 60 per cent of its depth to silt. What it could only contain is 40 per cent of its original volume of water. With the level of disruption, according to him, it will take another 500 years to stabilise the topography.
Today, rolling hills and intervening waters are continuously being decimated, while forest reserves are being misused, vandalised and even destroyed. According to Professor Agbola, Aremo forest reserves have given rise to residential buildings; Ogunpa forest reserves host Oba Akinbiyi schools; Eleiyele forest reserves now being used for industrial, commercial and residential activities. A visit to the once famous reserves showed humans daring the nature. There is illegal fishing exercise at the Eleiyele and Agodi lakes. Residential buildings around Eleiyele had their wastes dumped into it, thereby increasing its silt. A dangerous trend will likely occur in case of persistent rain. There is the likelihood of overflowing its bank by the lake, resulting in the flooding of surrounding residences, since there are no grasses and trees around, as they had been felled. The reddish colour around the Oke’badan, near the Eleiyele water works showed that if given to be furious again, the water may overrun its bank and surrounding houses and even floodplain of Ologuneru may suffer the consequences.
Also at the Alalubosa reserves, the trees are gone, with residential buildings sprawling the entire landmass. The river managed to run its course amidst residences sprawling the environment. The lake was established to cater for railway steam engine at that time. Alalubosa is the waterheads of rivers in Ibadan and it flows into the Ona river. It is also a tributary to the Omi River. The lake was destroyed as a result of anthropogenic activities, but the Alalubosa river is not being given attention. The floodplain of Alesinloye Market and its surrounding buildings may be the recipients of its fury. Water will always find its courses and in doing that, any obstruction may be submerged. The development was partly the reason for the recent flooding of Gbekuba and Omi-Adio.
Corroborating this, the Executive Director of Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Dr Sola Adepoju, said the lake at Alalubosa must be re-established to serve as buffer for the sum waters in the area. According to him, the lake would be able to accommodate more volume of water which had hitherto been causing flooding in Gbekuba and Omi Adio areas of the town.
Most of the Ibadan hills had been turned to plains as a result of consistent dredging and quarrying of the earth, sand and gravel in the reserves. Physical developments have devastatingly wasted most of the city’s natural resources, including the water bodies, the hills and the forest. The Mokola hills had the Agodi lake to contain its sum water. The lake as it is presently, had enough silt and had reduced in its volume capacity. There is the natural tendency to overrun the bridge and surmount nearby barriers. The reserves of Oke Aremo are completely gone. A visit to the place showed enormous human activities without a recourse to nature. The reserves in front of the University College Hospital had also given ways to buildings, including the famous Professor Ogunlesi Hall.
“Ibadan should be thankful for the sustenance and continuous dredging of the lake at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which had sustained Shasha and its environs. IITA created about 50 hectares of land for its dam. People from Oyo, Iseyin and others adjoining towns have to thank IITA. The lake is a respectable of waters from towns around the area. It absorbs flood water andeleiyele sum water and saves the environment from flooding and distortion of its topography. Deforestation has cost us a lot of problems,” he stressed.
There are also collapsing bridges across rivers in most areas in the town. Since most of the rivers are filled to brim whenever it rains, bridges on the rivers are being washed off, exposing passers-by, including motorists, to dangers. A man met his untimely death after he attempted to cross over the bridge on an extension of Odo Ona in Soka. He had thought the bridge was still intact, not knowing it had been washed off by the erosion. He stepped in and was drowned. Most bridges across rivers in the town may not stand the test of time, as they may collapse anytime soon. To know if erosion is happening in Ibadan whenever it rains, a drive around the town showed that many rivers have murky and brownish water, an indication of erosion.
To remedy the situation, Dr Ladipo suggested dredging of all water bodies and lakes. He said the Alalubosa river should be allowed to run its course and should, therefore, be dredged to maintain its course as it was before the establishment of the lake. The lake, he said was established to serve the locomotive engines of trains, but since it is now derelict, the government could have established a park around it, just like Agodi Garden. Since the lake is now no longer used, the water course should be allowed to run and the river dredged and linked to River Ona.
The government, according to him, should ensure penalties for defaulters who engage in quarrying without permit. They must be ready to carry out the EIA and adopt the United Nations standards that every mining must go with re-grassing and reforestation of such areas. There should be massive river shed development, while buildings along the water courses must be pulled down. All channels and courses of water receptacles must be free from obstacles.
Government must put in place an enforcement system, no land must be dredged or break up without evaluation by the ministry of environment. No permit must be given to cut the forest. The World Bank project must address issues, including dredging of Eleiyele, Odo Ona, and other water bodies. There must be re-vegitation and re-grassing on the water line and reforestation of Ibadan hills. The invasion of Aladura churches of the hills in Ibadan is also affecting the hydrological system.
To combat the flooding, Dr Adepoju said even if the gene bank were to be restored, it may take another 50 years for the trees to grow, adding that the immediate solution to the perennial flooding is the re-establishment of the lake at Alalubosa. To do this, however, most of the houses that were constructed on the water courses would have to give way for the re-establishment of the lake.