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How Nigeria can combat urgent flooding

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By Abraham Adekunle

The country needs good forecasts, drains and risk maps for 2023 predictions.

Flooding in Nigeria is now one of the hotly debated existential issues in the country. It is in the same national discourse with Terrorism, which has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more. Nigeria is one of the most flood-prone countries in west Africa. Many areas experience annual flooding. Some of the reasons are poor drainage systems, lack of dams to cushion the effect of released excess water from dams in neighboring countries, and heavy rainfalls.

Improvements need to be made. According to researchers who have specialized in meteorology for decades, the key interventions needed include understanding the impact of Climate Change on rainfall extremes and water resources, investing in a functional weather forecast system, and addressing the problem of poor drainage. These researchers believe that these actions are necessary to build resilience to flooding in the country. It is noteworthy that the Nigeria Meteorological Agency and the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency have predicted severe flooding this year 2023.

Flood situation in the country expected to worsen.

Recent devastating flooding incidents are still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. Flash floods are considered the deadliest hazards related to extreme weather and Nigeria is increasingly prone to them. In 2022, the Federal Government revealed that more than 500 people died and more than three million people were displaced due to the flooding across the country since the start of the rainy season in 2022. The floods affected as many as 30 states of the country and injured more than 2,400 persons. So, more than 80,000 houses and 300,000 hectares of land were reportedly damaged.

Among the many predictors of floods, the heavy rains over the West African Sahel reigns supreme. In a few decades, parts of Nigeria have experienced summer rainfall extremes that are more intense than before, such as the one last year, with future incidents are predicted to worsen in 2023. In fact, the dry regions, like the Lake Chad River basin, have begun to have record rainfalls. Downpours have submerged land areas, overrun watersheds and threatened the carrying capacity of water reservoirs. A recent study conducted by the World Weather Attribution team shows that this is expected to get worse.

Green engineering can protect humans and the environment.

Another set of drivers is the geography of the land. Low-land and coastal areas are flood risk areas because of rising river levels caused by rainfall. Previous flood disasters have shown that these areas are disaster prone. Drainage systems are also poorly managed. So, a combination of this and heavy downpour is a powder keg waiting to explode in form of flash flooding in cities. More so, there still exist problems of poor waste disposal, poor urban planning, poor Construction of drainage systems without climate adaptation in mind, etc.

Of course, there is no way to influence the level of rainfall. However, green engineering has been attested to improve the protection of humans and the environment. This can be applied in two ways in Nigeria: proper dam management and tree planting. The second action may not seem like a lot, nor may it show immediate signs or impact, but it contributes to the overall results in the end. These initiatives will reduce the speed of water flow and reduce the impact of floods.

Other way the government can combat floods in Nigeria.

One easy intervention that government agencies can utilize is the process of risk mapping, assessment and planning for floods. This informs how resources should be distributed and how to reduce risk. Countries such as Romania and Bulgaria have used it successfully. Then, forecasting also plays a vital role in flood prevention. It is a complex process that is continually being improved as artificial intelligence and machine learning/upgrades that are incorporated into the prediction technologies. Capacity building is required to improve the reliability of forecasting in the country. For weather forecasting to deliver quality data, there is a need to continuously invest in equipment and review performance. For instance, the NigeriaSat-2 was built to provide high-resolution imagery of the Earth’s surface but it is past its design life.


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