The N13.6 billion underground pipe jacking drainage built by former Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio, and commissioned by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 was heralded as an answer to the perennial flood problems plaguing the Idoro-Itam-Ikot Ekpene road axis of Uyo, the state capital.
Indeed the 2,300 metre pipe jacked drainage was described by then President Goodluck Jonathan at its commissioning as the first in Africa to curb flooding in the state capital.
Before the drainage was constructed, the area was always flooded after every rainfall, such that flood submerged many houses and business premises, leaving in its wake negative socio-economic effect on the people and the environment.
However, the construction of the drainage restored both the fortunes of residents of the area and saved the environment. But today, poor refuse disposal, disregard for environmental sanitation and health, as well as an encroaching ravine is threatening the drainage.
It appears the government and people have failed to periodically maintain the facility. The neglect of some channels to the 40 metres underground pipes conveying flood waters have been blocked with debris.
The drainage which, according to Julius Berger, has the capacity of about 29m3/s with DN2000, and has improved self-cleansing capability of the pipes has not been maintained or periodically cleaned. In fact, there are noticeable efforts by government to clean the outfall.
In Ikot Ekang, Itu Local Government Area, where the outfall of the drainage water which empties itself into the ravine is located, the place is overgrown with weeds, while the holes have been blocked by sand, as erosion continues to embolden the ravine.
The only access road to the outfall is being threatened by the expanding ravine beside it, such that a barricade has been placed at the entrance of the road to discourage vehicular movement. Despite this, the road is not safe for heavy human traffic as a careless walk through the snake-like road would force the ground underneath to collapse into the ravine.
Residents of the area have expressed mixed reaction to the wellbeing of the project 10 years after its inauguration. While some expressed joy and kudos to the state government for the facility which has turned the hitherto water locked area to a dry land, others raised concern that the drainage was under threat.
They said if urgent steps are not taken to address the threat, it could impede the smooth functioning of the facility and engender lives of residents.
They said the blockage was partly caused by residents, pedestrians and motorists as they dump empty cans, used pure water sachets and bottles of table water and other refuse into the gutter, which are carried into the drainage.
A resident, Mr Okon Etim, said “If the facility must continue to function optimally, the state government should take steps to clear sand and other refuse from the gutters before it becomes too late.
“Unfortunately, residents, pedestrians and motorists are partly responsible for the problem as they dump empty cans, used pure water sachets and bottles of table water and other refuse into the gutter.
“It has reduced the velocity at which the underground water flows to the ravine. It is no more as swift as it was when the gutters were free from sands and other waste materials,” he stated.
Another resident in Ibiaku Itam where one of the manholes for the drainage built by Julius Berger is located told our correspondent that it is only the company that has access to the manhole.
The resident who preferred to be unnamed said since the manhole was built and locked, it has not been opened.
“Inside the manhole is a ladder that leads into the underground drainage. It has been 3 years since Julius Berger who built the manhole came here,” he said.
Our correspondent heard the sound of rushing water channeled from the gutters on the long stretch of the Itam Road entering into the channel leading to the manhole.
An indigene from Ibiaku Itam 2, Mr Emmanuel Johnson, who was cultivating his farm close to the drainage outfall in Ikot Ekang, told our correspondent that he has suffered loss due to the siting of the project in the area.
He said, “I farm here, near the project. We have suffered loss due to the construction of the drainage. The project has affected us. We cannot cultivate our land as we used to because of flood water which washes away the top soil.
“When the land was being excavated for the drainage, sand upon sand was heaped on our land such that the land is no longer flat but sloppy.
“If we must plant, we cultivate the land early so by the time rain begins to fall, the cassava must have grown enough to withstand the erosion. Even at that, it affects our harvest. We need irrigation system to water our plants.
“Though we are farmers, we are not benefitting anything from the farm donations made by government. Farming is good. For the period of two years that I have been farming, I can tell you farming is good. Since garri became expensive, I have not bought garri but harvest the cassava from my farm,” he explained.
Speaking on the maintenance of the pipe jacking drainage, the Commissioner of Environment and Solid Minerals, Mr Charles Udoh, said the government has started the distilling of gutters and drainages across the state.
Udoh said government alone cannot effectively distil all the gutters as the rains progress but that it will do its best.
He explained that the government is currently focused in the distilling of major open drains that has hindered the free flow of water and constituted a risk to lives of residents within Uyo metropolis.
He mentioned that the government was more focused on the timely completion of the N14bn IBB Avenue World Bank Assisted drainage project.