Community Vulnerability and Resilience to Flood Risk in Bayelsa State, Nigeria

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Flooding is amongst the highly destructive, frequent and prevalent environmental hazards and it is of different kind and magnitude ((Wizor and Week, 2014). Flood is an unavoidable natural phenomenon occurring continually in rivers and natural drainage systems, which damages the lives, natural resources and environment, as well as, causes loss of economy and health on yearly basis (Thilagavathi, et al., 2011). Flood can be described as a large body of water covering a dry land. It occurs when water momentarily overtops an area that it usually does not due to excess rainfalls than the soil and vegetation can absorb. The excess water runs off the land in greater quantities than rivers, streams, ponds and wetlands can withhold. Heavy rains of such nature cause rivers to overflow their banks periodically, spilling onto the surrounding floodplains. ”Flood is a naturally occurring incident that is reliant not only on rainfall amounts, but also on the topography of the region, and antecedent moisture conditions” (Funk, 2006). It has displaced people, claimed lives and destroyed properties.

Floods are generally categorized as fluvial (riverine), pluvial (ponding), flash, coastal and urban floods. Fluvial floods occur when the rivers overflow their banks normally as a result of excessive rainfall. On the other hand, pluvial floods occur when there is extreme rainfall such that the natural drainage structures are saturated and unable to release water. Flash floods take place when water rises unexpectedly to unsafe levels at an instance with little or no advance warning. It usually arises from severe rainfall over a relatively small area. Urban floods occur as a consequence of land development without proper drainage facilities mostly in urban areas, where pervious soil layers are been replaced by impervious paved surfaces, which water cannot infiltrate leading to generation of greater runoffs; causing rivers, roadways and parks to flood. Urban flood can also be caused by “flash floods”, or “coastal floods” or “river floods.”Simply, Coastal flood occurs when the coast (i.e. a water touching land strip) is flooded by the sea. The sea can overflow or overtop flood defenses like sea walls, may be due to heavy storm (storm surge), a high tide, a tsunami or a combination of all.

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However, flooding occurs throughout Nigeria in the nature of coastal, river,flash and urban flood. In Nigeria, Bayelsa State is perceived as one of the highly susceptible states to flooding owing to its location in the heart of the Niger Delta. Flood arising from annual coastal and riverine rising waters has been afflicting most communities in the state and the Niger Delta even before the era of climate change awareness. Recent flood disasters in Bayelsa State and Nigeria at large, has claimed many lives and properties, and threatened the ecological biodiversity. Bayelsa State annually experiences flood occasioned by climate change that triggers devastating losses in human lives, economic assets, school attendance with multiplier consequences for the education system (Allen, 2015).

The 2012 and the recent 2018 floods experienced in the Niger Delta Region occasioned by the climate change pandemic had serious consequences on Bayelsa state especially the educational sector where schools were closed down for about four weeks. The 2012 floods is portrayed as the most violent and damaging flood disaster in the history of Nigeria in which 2.3 million people were displaced, over 363 persons were killed and about 597,476 houses were destroyed (Wills, 2014). The historic flood as posited by Akpokodje (2012) was caused by several factors which includes: Unusual rainfall associated with extreme climatic conditions caused by climate change and global warming, improper land use and development of natural water ways, blockage of drains and street inlets and the release of excess water from Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro Dams on River Niger and Cameroun’s Ladgo Dam

However, the root cause of the 2012 Great floods in Nigeria is attributed to the inundation of Rivers Niger, Benue and their tributaries arising partly from some of the runoff generated far off the foothills of the Futa Jalon Mountains in the Republic of Guinea; which end up in the flood plains of the Niger Delta region. The Niger Delta is the main coastal flood plain through which the Niger-Benue river system discharges into the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Fubara (2012), the adverse impacts of the 2012 flood is worse than the 60 years of oil pollution in the Niger delta Region. The rationale is that all the effluent discharges, the waste pits, the acidified waters etc have been washed into the rivers and other water bodies and since Bayelsa State provides the corridor for the numerous distributaries of Niger-Benue River system to discharge into the sea; the state has a very high vulnerability index not only to flood hazards arising from the Niger-Benue river system but also from sea level rise motivated by climate change. ”Flood Vulnerability Index (FVI) in the study of floods is considered as the extent of harm, which can be expected under certain conditions of exposure, susceptibility and resilience”(UNESCO IHE, 2017).

Nyananyo (2013) also submitted that ”no measure will avail the problems of flooding in the state without construction of buffer dams, preventing siltation of the Rivers, creeks and other waterways by dredging the water bodies and clearing the drains in the urban towns of debris”. He suggested the adaption of a plan of action particularly involving construction of buffer dams prior to and further down the bifurcation zone of the Rivers Niger into Forcados and Nun most likely at Asamabiri, Agbere/Odoni and lower down the River Nun close to Odi town. However, the best option to check flooding in the state is prevention.

”The vulnerability of a place on earth surface to flood is a function of the region’s exposure to the hazard, (natural event) and the anthropogenic activities carried out within the catchment area which impedes the free flow of water” (UNESCO, 2012). In the last two decades the notion of vulnerability has changed. Vulnerability is examined in the study of flood Vulnerability index (FVI) as a destructive incident, which can be anticipated under certain conditions of exposure, susceptibility and resilience (UNESCO IHE, 2017). This is so because human population worldwide is vulnerable to natural disasters and in recent times the impacts of floods have gained significance owing to the increasing population who are exposed to its adverse effects.

Generally, the purpose of vulnerability studies is to identify rightful actions that can be taken to reduce vulnerability before the possible harm is realized by building community resilience through adaptation and mitigation measures. Therefore, identifying areas with high flood vulnerability may guide decision making process towards a better way of dealing with flood societies.

However, in practice, defining ”Vulnerability comes from natural hazards such as floods and is stated as the extent to which a system is susceptible to flood due to exposure, a perturbation, in conjunction with its ability (or inability) to cope, recover, or basically adapt.” (UNESCO-IHE, 2017). From the point of view of sustainability, Vulnerability refers to the extent to which and the reasons why a community may be susceptible to disruption that may compromise its long-term survival. In this way, vulnerability is related to resiliency-the degree to which a community may resist and/or recover from a disturbance (such as flood). However, USAID (2012) defines resilience as “the ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to integrate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth.” This can be achieved by implementing adaptation and mitigation measures designed to enable the victims attain Sustainability to hazards (such as floods). Castieden et al. (2011) in a recently reviewed literature on resilience, described Community resilience as the “capability (or process) of a community adapting and functioning in the face of disturbance”. Ostadtaghizadeh et al. (2015) also defined community resilience as “the ability of a system, community, or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions. In the same vein, RAND researchers defined ”Community Resilience as a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize available resources to withstand, and recover from adverse situations”. Therefore, Community Resilience is seen as an amorphous concept that was understood and applied differently by different groups.

According to Philip (2017), sustainability is simply about maintaining or sustaining something. He stressed that to understand the concept requires you to first identify what people are choosing to sustain, that is, you need to identify the focus of their concern. Then you can work out what to do to sustain that thing or Condition.

In order to sustain something it may be essential to integrate ecological, social and economic issues or to consult widely. In line with the above, Zbigniew (1999) posited that ”Sustainability in the point of view of floods require that the civilization, wealth and environment should be relayed to future generations in a non-depleted shape”.

Another aspect of the definition states that, ”while flood protection is necessary to the present generation to attain a fair degree of freedom from disastrous events, it must be done in such a way that future generations are not adversely affected, assuring that the development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to assure their own needs” (best known definition, after WCED, 1987).

Hence, Sustainability should have a built-in maintenance of resilience against surprises and shocks, such as a violent abundance of destructive water. ”Remotely sensed imagery and Geographic Information System (GIS) are considered very useful tools in identifying the spatial component of flood management” (Izinyon and Ehiorobo, 2011).

Remote sensing and GIS are geo-information technologies that may possibly be utilized to assess flood vulnerability while flood risk maps are essential tools to identify flood vulnerability areas (Jeb and Aggarwal. 2008). According to Demessie (2007) and Manandhar (2010), GIS has been a useful tool in developing flood risk maps that indicate vulnerability to flooding in diverse locations globally. Vanghani (2005) opined that GIS was employed to provide spatial data for area in the flood zone for assessment regarding flood vulnerability in Lake Glan in Ostergotland County, Sweden. Unfortunately this detailed knowledge is always lacking in underdeveloped nations like Nigeria (Ishaya et al., 2009). Although, few studies on flood have been carried out in some local government areas in Bayelsa State like Sagbama LGA (Mmom and Akpi, 2014); Yenagoa LGA (Wizor and Week, 2014) and Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA (Berezi et al., 2015); no detailed study of flood on the entire Bayelsa State with regard to investigating the variation in the adaptation and mitigation measures designed to building resilience communities is available in literature. Against this background, the study shall investigate the community vulnerability and resilience to flood risk in Bayelsa State, Nigeria.


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