By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Prior to the construction of the N13.6 billion underground pipe jacking drainage system in Uyo, the capital city of Akwa Ibom State, perennial flooding was one of the major problems that confronted successive administrations in the state.
From Idoro Road through Itam Road to Ikot Ekpene Road areas of Uyo the state capital, it was always a pool of water after rainfall and had so many houses in the flood prone areas submerged, coupled with the socio-economic effects it possed on the wellbeing of residents as well as the environment.
When Julius Berger was contracted by the immediate past administration of Chief Godswill Akpabio to carry out the drainage project through which water was channeled into a well-lubricated huge pipeline buried 40 metres underground to discharge storm drains at Ekim Itam – Ikot Oku Road in Itu Local Government Area of the state, it was described as a prompt approach of government taking the bull by the horns.
The trenchless construction methodology drainage system was commissioned on July 6, 2011 by then President Goodluck Jonathan who also described the project as one the first in Africa to curb the flooding in the state capital.
Though the pipe jacking method according to the construction firm, Julius Berger, had water drainage capacity of about 29m3/s with DN2000 and has improved self-cleansing capability of the pipes but in open drains, additional manpower would have to be engaged after the construction to clean them up from time to time otherwise they would be blocked.
Our correspondent who visited Ikot Ekang, host community of the underground drainage system on Monday, got mixed reactions from the residents on the wellbeing of the project 10 years after it was inaugurated.
While they still expressed joy and kudos to state government for the facility which has helped to turn the hitherto water logged area to dry land on one side, they also on another hand, raised concerns that the drains system is being threatened by some factors that if urgent steps are not taken to address, could impede the smooth functioning of the facility.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed the factors to include poor environmental habit by some of the residents, pedestrians and even motorists who dump empty cans of drinks, used sachets and bottles of table water and other refuse into the gutter.
Another is the sand that is almost blocking the entire gutter, thereby preventing water from flowing to where the underground pipe will jack it in large volumes into the bottomless ravine.
Some residents told our correspondent that the underground water pipe jacking system was working, hence the area is no longer inundated with water as used to be the case before the facility was constructed.
However, they maintained, “if the facility must continue to function optimally the state government should take steps to clear sand and other refuse from the gutters before it becomes too late,” Mr. Okon Etim, one of the residents said.
Further information made available has shown that the velocity at which the underground water flow to the ravine is no more as swift as it was when the gutters were free from sands and other waste materials.
Commissioner for environmental and Solid Minerals in the state, Mr. Charles Udoh during his recent interaction with Journalists in Uyo said, government has started distilling of gutters accross the state to open up drains for free flow of water during and after rainfall.