Oyan dam flooding: An avoidable catastrophe

Oyan dam flooding: An avoidable catastrophe

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The last few weeks have been traumatic for residents of many communities in Ogun and Lagos states that find themselves along the path of the River Ogun system due to heavy flooding that has ravaged the areas.
But the experience of the last few days, especially Wednesday, had been catastrophic for residents of Agiliti/ Maidan, Orile, Owode, Agboyi and Araromi communities in Ketu and Mile 12 areas of Lagos; Akute and Warewa communities, as well as estates in and around OPIC in Ogun State.
More than 300 homes and almost 1,000 households were displaced by the rampaging flood occasioned by the release of water from the Oyan Dam in Abeokuta North Local Government of Ogun State.
Ogun River has River Ofiki and River Oyan, which both had their origins in Oyo North and the Northwestern part of Ogun State as tributaries. It also has a number of tributaries, such as River Ogbara, River Opeki, River Ose, River Oso and River Awon, which join it at various locations north of Abeokuta. Its major tributaries south of Abeokuta are River Onigbongbo and River Ewekoro.
The flooding from the release of water from Oyan Dam has become perennial, as it occurred in 2007, 2010, and 2012, usually in the months of August, September and October, and has continued to wreak havoc every time, with government always caught napping and not being able to do anything to help the victims.
Although no life has been lost in the current experience, properties worth billions of naira have always perished in the flooding. Of course, the cost of the inconvenience and displacement to lives and businesses are almost unquantifiable.
While it may be true that the flooding may have been aggravated by activities of residents, according to the Managing Director of Ogun/Osun River Basin Development Authority, Mr. Akintunde Soyemi, it is also not far from the truth that governments, at both the state and federal level have also failed in their social welfare responsibilities to the people.
Soyemi had explained that the current flooding, which had sacked so many residential, business and religious premises, including schools, churches and mosques, was caused by the opening of one of Ogun River’s tributaries, Oyan Dam.
He said, “Ogun River is a big river cutting across three states with more than 20 tributaries, one of which is Oyan Dam.
“This year, we had much more runoff; we only released 15 per cent now, which is done at a controlled rate and is not supposed to flood the downstream. It is flooding because it is not the only contributory river. Most of those flooded places are in the flood plain of Ogun River. The rule of thumb in constructing residences is that you must be above the level of the road, anywhere below such level will always be submerged.”
Be that as it may, isn’t it ironic that a dam that government should have derived maximum benefits from, for the people, had become a source of destruction and disruption of livelihoods and economic life in communities downstream of the dam, contrary to the operational principles adopted for the design and construction of the dam?
Built by OORBDA, and commissioned by former President Shehu Shagari on March 29, 1983, the dam covers 4,000 hectares and has a catchment area of 9,000 km2, with a crest length of 1044 metres, height 30.4 metres and gross storage capacity of 270 million m3.
Designed to supply raw water to Lagos and Abeokuta, and to support the 3,000 hectare Lower Ogun Irrigation Project, the dam had installed in 1983 three turbines of 3 megawatts each, but they had remained unused till date.
If the authorities had done what is required, the current suffering and dislocations people are made to suffer would not have arisen.
Evidently, if power is being generated from Oyan Dam and two million cu.m. of water is being released from the dam every day as it should, there would be no need to release water to cause floods in places like Abeokuta close to the dam and in places like Warewa, Akute, Denro, Riverview Estate, OPIC Estate, Lonex Gardens, Riverbank Estate and Guinness Cooperative Estate, which are close to Lagos State and the Lagos Lagoon.
Having identified the major tributaries of River Ogun, OORBDA should be able to identify the tributaries making significant contributions to the flow of the River Ogun and control such to prevent the perennial flooding in Abeokuta and other communities downstream of Abeokuta. Buffer dams on such tributaries by OORBDA are also considerations for flood control purposes.
Town planning agencies of government should also be up and doing in their responsibilities and ensure that homes and structures are not constructed on river paths, to allow for free flow of water at all times.
As it is, victims of this year’s flooding are already counting their losses in millions of naira, aside from the emotional trauma, in a tragedy that could have been averted, had the appropriate government agencies done what they are paid taxpayers’ money to do in the first instance.
Governments, at all levels, should therefore, wake up to their responsibilities and do the needful to avoid recurrence of this

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