By Andy Chukwu
Fears and apprehension reigned in the Otuokpoti community in Ogbia Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, over the weekend following a sea surge that overran the community’s riverbank, causing a massive landslide that swept land and property into the river.
The tension in the troubled community was further heighten by the recent flood alert by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (HIHSA), which listed Bayelsa as one of the states to be worst hit by flood.
The community, which in the past was well noted for its alluring and magnificent riverbanks, has been hit in recent times by indiscriminate dredging by sand dredgers approved by the state government.
Bamy Okatubo, Deputy Paramount Ruler of Otuokpoti, said the state government gave companies permission to dredge sand from the community’s rivers and creeks, not minding the effect of erosion on the communities.
“These dredgers might have eroded the embankment done during the regime of late Chief Melford Okilo underwater and so affected the land, causing the landslide.
“We pray that God would touch the minds of the powers that be to remedy the situation before we find ourselves facing the scourge that we thought had been arrested forever,” he said.
Renowned environmentalist, Alagoa Morris, called on the state representatives at the national and state assemblies to make case on the floor of the House and Senate to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the ecological challenges facing the state.
“The state government should ensure that proper EIA is done before any dredging activity is allowed within any community environment.
“This is with a view to preventing coastal erosion. Bayelsa State government should rise up to the occasion and protect our communities from coastal erosion,” he said.
However, Mr Udengs Eradiri, Bayelsa State Commissioner for Environment, has visited the community to assess the situation on ground.