For years, residents lived with the menace of perennial flooding in Uvwie, Warri and the environs. During the rainy season, Enerhen junction, PTI road, Uti road, refinery road, Ugbuwangue community and many other places in the Warri metropolis were a nightmare.
It is on record that the perennial flood claimed lives, buildings were brought down and roads constructed by successive governments were badly damaged. The situation was precarious, especially as no serious effort was made by previous governments to address the challenge.
In the recent past, the situation was not different in Asaba, Delta State capital. When Okowa assumed office as Governor of the State in May 2015, the State capital was perennially plagued by flooding during the rainy season.
However, the story of Asaba has changed today.
A tour of projects executed by Governor Okowa took this reporter to Delta. In Asaba, the reporter had the opportunity to inspect and investigate how the State Government under Governor Okowa was able to curb the menace of flooding in the State capital.
Okowa’s approach to problem of flood in Asaba and implication for construction of roads
In response to the problem of flooding in Asaba, Governor Okowa initiated the Asaba stormwater drainage project. This reporter reliably gathered that when Okowa assumed office, a development research consultant proffered solutions to the perennial flood in Asaba.
Residents and those familiar with Asaba can testify about the state of the State capital during the rainy season. Hitherto, the flood problem created anxious moments for residents. The volume of water submerged houses and deaths were recorded in some cases. Indeed, the flood menace was an albatross to residents of the capital city.
For instance, during the rainy season, the busy Okpanam road is usually overwhelmed by flood, causing terrible snarl in traffic, with motorists forced to drive indiscriminately and lawlessly.
The road leading to Junior Staff Quarters from Summit Road was often cut off during the rains and the premises of Delta Broadcasting Service (DBS), Asaba, also went under, submerged by the flood, with offices run over and equipment destroyed.
Besides Okpanam road, DBS road and Junior Staff Quarters road, other places usually badly affected by floods include Jesus Saves road, DLA road, Ambassador Leo Okogwu road, Infant Jesus, Temple Clinic area and the whole of Asaba inland town.
But today, that flood plague, with its attendant trauma to residents of Asaba, is no more.
Mr John Onwalu, the Consultant Engineer for the Asaba Storm Water project, had given insights into how the project started.
“When we came in, we carried out a preliminary study to find out the cause of the flooding so as to be able to proffer a solution. From our preliminary study, we found out that Asaba is sitting on the lower plain of a valley.
“Taking Asaba and Okpanam together, every drop of rain in Okpanam comes down to Asaba because Okpanam is situated at 187 metres above sea level, while the centre of Asaba, which is at Inter Bua Roundabout is situated at 44 metres above sea level.
“So, you have a difference of about 143 metres in elevation. This explains why every drop of water in Okpanam flows to Asaba. The situation shows why even when there is no rainfall in Asaba, it still experiences flooding flowing in from Okpanam,” Onwalu had said.
The Consultant Engineer had also disclosed that a major problem which their study discovered was that when Delta was created with Asaba as capital, there was an initial lack of urban planning, which should have mapped out roads, residential areas, commercial areas, schools, etc.
“But, with no defined areas for property development, people began to develop property indiscriminately, blocking natural water paths, thereby hindering the flow of the precipitated flood through its natural path,” Onwalu said.
According to him, water must find its level and that is why you find water meandering through different places, even through homes.
He explained that the discoveries prompted a survey of the whole area to be carried out soon after the state government under Gov. Okowa directed that the storm drainage project should be embarked on.
“The survey was topographic and intended to collect information on every spot in Asaba. With that, we were able to generate the spot heights from which the contour mapping was produced, with the street names, and all the verifiable features that will help in our work, after which we went into the proper analysis to generate the flood drainage design,” Onwalu explained.
He added that the analysis was to provide an answer to the question of the volume of flood water that Okpanam contributes to Asaba and how to manage it.
Armed with adequate technical details on issues around the perennial and intense flooding in the capital and environs, including the determination of the hydrological channel section that could accommodate the volume of flood water from Okpanam, the government began, as onerous as it appeared, a comprehensive and apt strategy to arrest the scourge.
The Okowa government deployed the storm drainage approach, tasking the contractors to split the project into three phases for ease of handling and coordinated supervision.
Work in all the phases has been concluded, the drains have been activated and flooding in Asaba is now history. The storm drainage project by Okowa came to the rescue and has brought joy to the people.
The gargantuan tunnels, seen at the discharge point at Anwai, and the mighty pipes that run through them, mean that when it rains at Okpanam or even in Asaba, the drainage system is able to swallow all the water and discharge into the River Niger. Okowa thus saved the state capital and the inhabitants from the debilitating experience of flooding.
The project was superbly, conscientiously and pragmatically executed in tandem with its concept, from observation.
Meanwhile, after constructing the main storm sewers, the government started concentrating on creating street drains, and everywhere that a road was constructed or rehabilitated, a street drain is also provided.
It is the drain that makes the roads last because when there is no water sitting under the asphalt, the road will not collapse. Every drop of water flows into the drain which empties into the sewers, thus making the road networks to endure for a long period.
It is common knowledge that bitumen is never friends with water. So, roads without drainage will definitely collapse, which has been the case with roads constructed in Effurun, Warri and the environs by successive governments.
Once the flood problem of Asaba was solved, it became much easier to construct more roads in the State capital.
Gov Okowa replicating Asaba storm drainage success in Warri
One amazing thing Governor Okowa did in Asaba, which is worth replicating in all parts of Delta, is that virtually all the roads in the State capital are tarred and there is no single one with a pot-hole, except for a number of roads currently undergoing construction work.
Many criticize Okowa and say because he is not from Warri, he refused to construct or rehabilitate roads in the metropolis. But, not many know the foundation the Governor has laid for the integrated development of the metropolis.
A critical look at the solution provided for the problem of flood in Asaba shows that deep thoughts and deep thinking have gone into it, depicting the intellectual inputs to government projects and programmes by the Okowa administration.
Recall that a lot of roads were constructed by successive governments in Warri. They could be likened to “indomie roads”. When the roads soak in water from the perennial floods, they become too soft and wear away. That has been the cycle, happening in the course of the last 16 years.
Because there was no viable drainage system, most of the roads constructed in Warri collapsed. Existing drainage before now does not discharge anywhere. Hence, roads constructed in Warri always failed.
Okowa, by the stroke of deft wisdom, refused to follow the path of road construction taken in the past. It was not wise for the government to continue to put down money into the drain. What to do was to address the reason why roads in Warri do not stand the test of time, which is what the government is addressing at the moment.
Recall that the first two years following the 2015 general election and subsequently the inauguration of the government in that year were turbulent such that it was difficult for State governments to even pay workers’ salaries let alone embark on projects.
However, revenue begin to pick up and the government started executing projects. It was, therefore, only wise for the government to be prudent and careful with the number of projects it piled up at a time.
To replicate the solution provided for flooding and road construction in Asaba for Uvwie, Warri and the environs, the Okowa administration initiated a flood control project for Effurun, Ekpan, Warri and the environs to channel the bulk of flood water into the Warri River. Thereby, pave the way for the construction of roads in the metropolis.
To set the ball rolling, armed with the Asaba template, Governor Okowa established the Warri, Uvwie and Environs Development Agency (WUEDA), and before embarking on the project properly, a study of the topography of Warri and Effurun was conducted as well.
Before now, there was no survey and proper mapping of the metropolis but as a result of the flood control initiative by Okowa, Warri now has a master plan and just the same way that Asaba was prioritized, is the same way that Warri has been prioritized.
The State Government eventually awarded the contracts for the flood control project in Uvwie and Warri to the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) and Levant Construction Company, respectively.
Recall that the initial contract for the Uvwie and Warri flood control projects was awarded in January 2020, but the progress of work was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of the lockdown which ensued.
However, the increase of work sites on the storm drainage projects from initial 61 to 76 caused a corresponding increase of the contract value by N4.5 billion from the original sum of N9.5 billion. The projects will, therefore, cost each contractor N14 billion, making N28 billion in total.
“The cost of the drainage project can scare anyone but my government is focused and we do not want to build roads that will fail. I want to build a lasting foundation such that after the drainage, we can build roads that can last. In the area where we have already worked on, the people are very happy because there is no more flooding,” Governor Okowa had said during an inspection visit to the project.
The project involves the clearing of canals, natural waterways and drains as well as the construction of huge underground tunnels, smaller drainages and culverts to channel flood water into the Warri River. The project also involves the relocation of electric poles, utilities and structures, underground pipes and network cables.
There have been incursions along the natural waterways over the year as many undermined the town planning structure of Warri and erected structures and buildings on the waterways. Those with formal approval who did not build directly on water courses were paid compensation but those who deliberately built on water courses hoping to get compensation were not compensated.
In executing the project, the contracting firms were urged not to employ outsiders for jobs that community youths can easily do. As the project progresses, more communities were engaged while those that had been used are disengaged.
The underground tunnels constructed for flood control in Uvwie and Warri and inspected by this reporter, a trailer can pass through them. This reporter gathered the multi-billion naira project has reached 70% completion stage already.
“The storm drainage project has reached 70% completion. What we are doing is laying the foundation for road construction in Warri as part of the integrated development of the State.
“With the flood control project, when fully completed, no volume of water can threaten Effurun, Ekpan, Warri and the environs anymore. Plus, we are sure our roads in the metropolis will last,” a government official told journalists on the tour of the project.
The project sites visited include Ugbolokposo, Alegbo, Uti, Apala, NPA expressway, Edjeba, Third Marine Gate, Esisi road and Igbudu Primary School in Warri South and Uvwie Local Government areas.
Others include the project sites in Ugbuwangue community, Ekpan, Mabiaku street, Commissioner road and Aghoghovbia road, and the adjoining Arigbe street, which had been bedevilled by flood during the rainy season.
Most parts of the drainage system, same as in Asaba, are underground and so, not visible.
The stormwater project links from the DSC roundabout down to Uti Street linking to PTI road on one hand down to Jakpa junction, linking Effurun roundabout up to Enerhen junction and washing down into the Warri River. The project also links from Refinery road down to Ekpan and to Complex linking down to Airport road and joining Effurun roundabout up to Enerhen junction at Airport junction.
“Before we started this project, I had already informed you that there are going to be four different storm drainage projects for us to fully drain Warri of the flood water. This government undertook a study of the situation in Warri and Effurun areas of the state before commencing the project. Whatever was done in the past was not just good enough considering the terrain in the area.
“We have taken on the first two major projects, one in Warri South Local Government Area and the other in Uvwie Local Government Area. The other two are smaller drainage projects. Once we have solved the drainage challenge, it becomes much easier to construct more roads,” Governor Okowa told journalists during a recent visit to the project.
With the stormwater drainage system initiated in Warri by the Governor, all existing drainages are now being properly linked to channel water to the Warri River to curb flooding in the metropolis. Building on this, any road constructed in Warri will no doubt last.
As a result of the appreciable work done on the drainage system in Warri, last year, the Okowa government awarded the contract for a total reconstruction of Warri Township Stadium.
Meanwhile, Governor Okowa had disclosed his administration had 883 ongoing and completed road projects covering a total length of 1,932.14km of roads and drainage channels with a cumulative length of 1,035.95km in the last seven years.
Governor Okowa has shown commitment to restoring the lost glory of Warri and the storm drainage projects, designed to ensure that the flooding of the oil-rich city was permanently tackled, will pave the way for what is to come next.
Just as the residents of Asaba are now enjoying the rainy season as the massive flooding that used to overwhelm the city is now a thing of the past, so residents of Uvwie, Warri and the environs will start enjoying the rainy season.