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The Central government is again about to throw away money in their attempts to dredge the River Niger from Warri to Baro (Niger State).
It is time to again call upon the forces of nature to derail this impending ecological disaster.
Culled from ThisDay Online Dateline: 17/09/2004 03:25:32
FG Raises Hopes on River Niger Dredging
From Josephine Lohor in Abuja

President Olusegun Obasanjo has authorised the Ministry of Transport to initiate a fresh process for the implementation of the dredging of the River Niger.

Obasanjo gave the authorisation following a briefing by the Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo and the Director-General of the Federal Inland Waterways Authority on plans to improve water transportation in Nigeria.

The President however asked the Minister of Transport to ensure that the mistakes of the past were avoided in the implementation of the fresh process, warning that whatever new contracts were entered into for the dredging of the River Niger must be faithfully executed without variations.

He directed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be briefed to recover about N1.5 billion already paid to companies that failed to execute previous contracts for the dredging of the Niger.

The Minister and his team had informed the President that if a salable waterway was available from Warri to Baro on the River Niger, at least 20 per cent of transportation in Nigeria could be done by its inland waterway.

It emerged from the briefing that about N28 billion would now be required for the main dredging works on the River Niger.

Dear Benaebi,

It will be interesting to see what disadvantage or disaster this will mean to our people. My opinion is that the social and economic benefits that will accrue to communities along the waterway will far outstrip any disadvantage. All over the world. dredging, canalization, sandilling, swamp drainage have been embarked on to improve both social and economic benefits of communities that affected. The important thing is to carry out a comprehensive impact assessment and deal with it.

These methods have been extensively applied in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands. The Rhine and Rhone rivers of Europe have been extensively dredged and canalized in the past to boost social and economic interactions. In the USA the Tennessee Valley Authority project has transformed a whole swampland  into more productive land to the benefit of the communities there. The St Lawrence Seaway leading to the Great Lakes is itself a series of dredgiing and canalization projects. In Nigeria, the Lagos Port is constantly being dredged at specific intervals to maintain its funcitonal level. The Escravos estuary has been heavily dredged and canalized to allow the movement of heavy equipment into the area for the oil industry. I am not too sure of Bayelsa but I have a feeling that a lot of dredging and canalization had to be done to allow very heavy floating equipment for the oil industry.

On the surface, dredging will deepen the water channel of the affected waterway thereby enabling larger vessels convey goods and people along the waterway. In my childhood days, I was opportuned to have travelled several times by river from Burutu to Garua in the Cameroons and from Burutu to Baro on the Niger River. These journeys were made accompanying my unlce who was an engineer with UAC (Niger River Transport) and during holidays. During this period, the Inland Waterways Department based in Lokoja was busy carrying out hydrological surveys on both the Niger and Benue and laying buoys to direct navigation on the waterways for both the UAC vessels based in Burutu and both John Holt and CFAO vessels based in Warri  conveying goods on these waterways. The point is that many towns along the waterways like Burutu, Warri, Patani, Ase, Aboh, Osemere, Onitsha, Idah, Lokoja, Makurdi, Mutum Biu, Lau,Yola on the Benue axis and up the Niger from Lokoja, Jebba to Baro all benefitted from the sprawling commerce and activity along the waterways. It was the civil war that disrupted this trend followed by the massivive damming of the upper Niger and Benue that reduced the water volume of the lower Niger, parts of Benue and the Forcados River. This resulted in the shallowness of the waterways and proliferation of many sandbars which became hazardous to navigation among other effects in the area generally refered to as the lower Niger. This completely wiped out commercial activities in these waterways. Most of the towns that were sprawling in commercial activities as a result of the navigability of the waterways became ghosts of their past.

Today, if the FG decides to dredge the waterway and make it navigable for commerce to spring up again what is wrong? 


Crucial Issues on the Dredging of the River Niger

by Benaebi Benatari 


In 1999, the federal government under the then head of state, General Abdusalami Abubakar, announced that the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) would embark upon the dredging of the River Niger in order to improve navigation and commerce in the hinterland. The proposed dredging route would be from Warri (Delta State) in the western part of the Niger Delta estuaries, up to Baro (Niger State) in the upper regions of the middle Niger. N8.3 billion was earmarked for a gigantic project that would result in ocean going vessels being able to ply up the Niger and discharge their cargo at Onitsha and Baro, which would respectively be equipped with complete berthing and cargo handling facilities.


As a result of the official federal government go ahead, there was a loud cry of protest from the people of the Niger Delta in particular and other potentially affected communities, to the effect that since an environmental impact assessment has not been done, it was irresponsible for the government to give the go ahead for such a massive environmental alteration project. Subsequently the government got the management committee of the PTF to successfully complete an EIA, without making the document available to wide public scrutiny. And in November 1999 President Olusegun Obasanjo approved the dredging of the River Niger, at an increased cost of N8.6 billion, from Warri to Baro, as mentioned beforehand.


In this position paper the Ijaw  Protection Organisation’s environmental desk will argue why it is important that the project should not be allowed to go ahead in its present proposed form.


That President Obasanjo did not pass through the National Assembly to get approval to dredge the River Niger, shows that he knows what he is doing. His intentions are not genuine or sincere. A massive environmental alteration project such as the dredging of the Niger should have been debated and approved by the National Assembly before being allowed to commence. But no, the cash is suddenly found and the work should go ahead regardless of the environment costs to the people living along the banks of the dredging route, such as loss of livelihood, increased risk and damage due to accelerated river bank erosion, to name a few. The Niger River should not be dredged, regardless of the dubious environmental impact assessment that pretends that the environmental consequences will be minimal. Indeed it is strange that the management committee of the PTF did not wait for proper feedback from both the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) the various state environmental protection departments of the states that will be affected, and the communities along the dredging route. Furthermore even if the various environmental protection agencies and departments, agree to the execution of the project, because of the reality that bribery and corruption permeates the decision making processes in Nigeria, their agreement does not signify that the project is environmentally sound.


In other parts of the world massive environmental alteration projects are given careful thought, long term planning, debate and public scrutiny, before the go ahead is approved, e.g.  concerning a massive environmental alteration project in the Netherlands from 1953 onwards, due to the south-west Netherlands being ravaged by severe floods-extract titled “From conflict to compromise”;


“…In 1953 the south-west of The Netherlands was ravaged by terrible floods. The delta Plan was conceived in response to the disaster, to ensure a similar tragedy would never happen again. In 1958, Parliament passed the ‘Delta Act’ and, in doing so, accepted the recommendations of the Delta Commission, which had been set up in 1953…. Various reasons led to a reconsideration of the whole scheme some 20 years later. Criticism had already been levelled at the Delta Plan in the early 1960’s principally at the closing of the Oosterschelde. In addition, people were concerned about the environmental effects of large-scale hydraulic engineering works…..In 1974, the Government expressed its intentions to close off the estuary with a sluice dam. The works were halted. After a brief study period, the following plan was put to Parliament (1) The Oosterschelde would be closed off by 1985 at the latest storm-surge barrier, (2) dikes at risk (i.e. those whose frequency of being overtopped was more than 2.10-3x/y), would be raised to an acceptable level. (3) the Minister of Transport and Public Works was given 18 months in order to study the technical aspects of the solution.  Parliament accepted these proposals, subject to three preconditions: (1) The technical feasibility of the scheme. (2) The solution was to cost no more than Df 3.8 million (1974-price levels). (3) The barrier was to be completed by 1985 at the latest.  Some implementation models were developed in more detail. The studies resulted in 1976 in a report entitled ‘Policy Analysis Oosterschelde Alternatives’. During the study it was assumed that the preconditions laid down by Parliament could be met. In 1976 the recommended technical draft was accepted by Parliament….So, the compromise is that public safety as well as environment have been accommodated..”[1]


Thus we can see from the above extract that in other countries where democracy is the norm, massive environmental alterations projects, take time, long-term planning. In the case of Nigeria, the EIA is a ‘hash job’, done as an afterthought. Indeed the EIA is ongoing. Most of all, such projects are passed through the decision making processes of Parliament as apart of adequate public scrutiny, before the project is finally executed. In our case President Obasanjo did not even bother to follow proper procedures before approving the go ahead. Indeed it should not even be the President that should approve such a project, only the National Assembly should.


The reason why Obasanjo has not been transparent about the River Niger dredging project is because he knows that the environmental consequences will be huge, such as;


a.   accelerated riverbank erosion and bank failure, towns and villages along the route will disappear.

b.  accelerated coastal erosion and bank failure.

c.   accelerated river capture (Nun will loose out to the Forcados branch of the Niger).

d.  accelerated pollution of the waterways due to the huge increase in river traffic.

e.   loss of fishing livelihood due to the heavy pollution from ships and barges.

f.    loss of farming livelihood, due to channelisation and commandeering of farm lands to dump the dredged up material along the banks, which consists of high silicate material detrimental to farming most food crops.

g.  destabilisation of the waterways as the river seeks to cope with the overload and re-establish meanders along the altered courses.

h.  migration of the salt water marine environment into the freshwater marine environment with the resultant destruction of freshwater ecosystems. This is due to the channelisation process.

i.    increased risk of severe flooding due to the increased carrying capacity of the river that is transmitted downstream.

j.     loss of use of fresh water for drinking purposes due to pollution by heavy-duty ship oils.


These concerns raised above are not invented, they are borne out through the study of the effects of man altering the marine environment in other countries;


“…The application of new technologies in this century has increased man’s influence to such an extent as to imperil the healthy functioning of coastal waters in ecological and social terms by disrupting them in a variety of ways. Nowadays, however, it is also possible to direct ecological development of entire basins as a matter of ‘planned ecology’ analogous to ‘planned economy’. Unfortunately, technological ability and primary economical and social requirements, such as safety, have too often led to short sighted choices which in turn caused increasing stresses on, in this case coastal ecosystems. Many projects take a long time for preparation, execution and follow-up. The time of 20-40 years appears to be normal for coastal engineering projects like the Delta Project…”[2]


“…Thus we have seen that under natural conditions a river seeks to establish a morphology which is adjusted to its hydrology and hydraulics, i.e. a morphology which will allow it to carry its discharge and load with least effort and maximum efficiency. However, man can easily upset the natural equilibrium of a river by altering either the catchment surface or the river channel itself. By changing the surface of the watershed man may affect the hydrological cycle and thus sediment yield and river morphology. He may also directly change hydrologic and morphologic characteristics of a river by channelling, dredging, or damming it. He must understand the results of any such tampering, and work in collaboration with ecological principles governing fluvial action…Let’s make certain that the result will be harmonious with the natural system…”[3]


“….For River reaches where sinuosity is very high, a period of instability and meander cut-off can be expected. If these reaches are identified, selective cut-offs may partly reduce the impact of the inevitable river patterns change or avulsion. This is in no way a recommendation for channelisation. The brutal forcing of a channel into an unnatural straight alignment almost always produces serious consequences. Unless the new course is cut in resistant materials the channel will attempt to resume its meandering course. In addition, the greatly increased gradient of the straightened channel will normally cause incision and rejuvenation upstream, thereby producing a high sediment load that will probably enlarge and aggrade the aligned channel and cause flood-plain destruction….”[4]


According to the Niger Delta Environmental Survey report;


“Historically, for much of the Delta, the rate of [coastal] erosion has been balanced by sediment transport from the hinterland and by longshore drift. However, a number of factors, including natural delta subsidence and rising sea level, canalisation, coastal structures, large boat traffic, and decreased sediment input have promoted erosion at various locations along the delta and its major rivers, particularly at:

. Escravos: caused by the construction of two moles trapping the NNW movement of the longshore drift and resulting in shoreline retreat at a rate of between 18 and 24 m/y (Ibe, 1988);

. Forcados South Point: more than 400 m of coastal land has been eroded within the last 20 years, credited to long-term and, recently, heavy maritime traffic in the area (Ibe, 1988)

. Brass: the zone of erosion covers the Brass River to St Nicholas River barrier island and is estimated at 16-19 m/y (Oyegun 1990);  Molume mud beach area: just west of the Benin River, showing some of the highest natural erosion rates in the world due primarily to natural causes, but augmented by canal development (Gundlach et al., 1985)[5]


Coastal erosion is caused mainly by the reduced flow of the river during the dry season because of the extensive damming upstream. Other contributing factors are the canalisation of estuaries and the use of large ocean going vessels near the port complexes.


According to Geomatics Nigeria Ltd, an environmental consultancy organisation that does extensive work for the government;


“…A remote sensing and GIS [Geographical Information System] analysis study was conducted along the coast of Nigeria near Awoye in the Niger Delta oil production area. It was shown that the coast had receded approximately 1.5 km between 1971 and 1991. It was established that the reason was likely either canal construction/maintenance or petroleum exploration activities in the very sensitive Niger Delta alluvial deposits….”[6]


With regards to riverbank erosion, this has been a natural phenomenon since the delta came into being. It becomes a problem when towns and villages situated near the banks, are subjected to massive erosional forces caused by man tampering with the river and estuary environment. In this case prevention measures must take into account the natural flow of the river.


The federal government plans to dredge the river in such a way to will allow huge ocean going ships and barges to ply upstream. Since most towns and villages along the dredging route are situated close to the riverbank, then it would be suicidal for the communities that live along the banks to agree to a massive dredging operation, unless the following conditions are implemented;



a.   guarantee that only a certain amount and size of barges (not ships) are allowed to ply the main route.

b.  that no small ships are allowed to ply the coastal zone through to the fresh water zone and up to the middle Niger.

c.   that all communities along the route are protected via, seawalls, dykes, and other erosional remedies.

d.  there is no channelisation that breeches the saltwater and freshwater zonal equilibrium.

e.   that if there is a decline in fish stocks due to high levels of pollution and river traffic, then all communities along the route will be compensated, and river traffic reduced to allow for the recovery of fish populations.

f.    that all dredging material should be dumped on agreed sites, as negotiated by the various communities, and that the land owners will be compensated, plus the dredged up material will belong to the affected communities to be used as they please.


When these are agreed upon, and after a interim period, when Nigeria has solved its various internal problems, only then should the Niger Delta people, the Ijaws in particular agree to allow the dredging to commence. In the mean time we should resist any means to further damage our already fragile environment. For the dredging of the Niger up to Baro has sinister implications because of the actions of the present government, and past utterances of the overlords from the northern region, which raise certain questions such as;

a.   why does the government want to transfer port processing facilities up north, when the existing ports are under utilised?

b.  why doesn’t the government development an integrated transport policy of road, marine and rail networks that can evacuate goods from the ports in the south to the north, based on the use of the existing ports, through barges, trailers and trains.

c.   if the government is concerned about efficiency, why does it not explore the main route of the Niger down to the sea at Brass?

d.  Isn’t  N8.6 billion better utilised in consolidating the existing port complexes in the south.


These questions and many more, makes us believe that the government is not sincere about genuine development of the River Niger and the Niger Delta. A scrutiny of the information given out by the government, shows that no economic benefits accrue to the communities along the dredging route, if the project is carried out in its present form. Just like the Kainji Dam, the north will profit at the expense of the south, which will bear the brunt of the environmental damage caused by the massive dredging of the River Niger. All communities along the route, from the Niger Delta, along to Onitsha and beyond, should not be fooled or taken in by the false promises of prosperity that the dredging will bring. If they do, they may not survive to tell the tale.


Written in March 2000 on behalf of the Ijaw Protection Organisation


Environmental Issues Affecting the Niger Delta

By Benaebi Benatari


1.   Sustainable Development and Environmental  Sustainability.

2.   Pollution and Ecological Destabilisation.

3.   Coastal and River bank erosion.

4.   Flood Control.

5.   Free Flow of River and the effects of upstream Damming.




Situated on the southern most part of Nigeria, the Niger Delta covers an approximate area of 70,000 km2. It is Africa’s largest delta, and within it are a number of distinct ecological zones which, starting from the coast are, coastal ridge barriers consisting of sand bars and small islands, mangrove swamp forest, freshwater swamp forest and lowland rain forest.


The Niger Delta is a gigantic natural resource reservoir, and because of its natural resources such as crude oil, natural gas, timber, sand/gravel, and agricultural resources, it has attracted intense attention from successive governments and organisations that see it as a source of unlimited wealth.


On a human level the Niger Delta is the home of several Nigerian peoples such as the Ijo, Urhobo, Isoko, Ogoni, Ikwerre, Ndokwa, Abuans, and Itsekiri, with the Ijos (Ijaws) comprising the majority people of the Niger Delta.  The bulk of the Niger Delta falls within the Ijo homelands. Any initiative that seeks to address the various ecological and environmental problems of the Niger Delta must take this into consideration.  It is important to stress this because what we find is that many enterprises set up by the Nigerian government or any other organisation that has an economic interest in the area, that seek to solve the environmental problems of the Niger Delta, seem not to involve the majority people.


The Niger Delta is a fragile environment that is very sensitive to natural resource exploitation. There is a lot of industrial activity going on in the area ranging from oil exploration and exploitation, timber extraction and deforestation, fisheries, wetland agriculture, to name a few. Because of these activities, the fragile environment is rapidly deteriorating, resulting in ecological and social instability.



Sustainable Development and Environmental  Sustainability:

Environmental sustainability means different things to different people. It is sometimes confused with sustainable development, which is also a controversial term. Whereas Environmental sustainability is the ability of a particular natural environment to cope with the various activities imposed upon it by human beings, without negative consequences or minimum negative effects to the natural environment and the local human population, sustainable development is interpreted as the ability of a particular society to “meet its present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”[1]. Because of this vague definition, sustainable development is subjected to various interpretations according to the economic and ideological perspective of the interpreter[2].


Environmental sustainability encompasses the sustainable development of a particular environment, from the ecological, economic, social and political points of view. Environmental sustainability is a holistic concept that tries to make sure that the environment human beings live in, is utilised in such a way that a balance is achieved between natural processes and human development activity, in the form of agriculture and natural resource exploitation.


The Niger Delta is a vast natural freshwater and marine ecosystem with a fluctuating system dynamics between itself, the Atlantic ocean, and human activity. A delve into the traditional life style of the people who inhabit the delta shows that before the advent of the colonisation by Britain, the people had achieved a complex system of traditional regulations that allowed them to exploit the natural resources of the delta without impairing the natural ecology on a significant level.[3] With the discovery of crude oil and natural gas deposits, and their exploitation, plus the importation of European style industrial activities, the Niger Delta’s natural ecology and human populations have been put at risk. In other words the present level of industrial activity is non sustainable. Likewise modern agricultural practices, road building program etc., seem to have created more problems than they have solved.


The aim is not to put a stop to industrial, economic and agricultural activities that benefit the people, but to make sure that the resources of the Niger Delta are exploited in such a way that negative effects to the environment are reduced to a minimum. Also that natural resource exploitation is carried out in such a way that local people are the main beneficiaries. This is the challenge of all inhabitants of the Niger Delta. This is environmental sustainability addressing the sustainable development agenda.


What are the major environmental and ecological concerns of the Niger Delta? The various environmental concerns derive from the status of the Niger Delta as one of the largest tropical deltas in the world with a unique ecosystem that is fast disappearing around the globe, and as an area of major industrial activity and agricultural potential.   Therefore we can divide the ecological and environmental issues of the Niger Delta into four areas;


1.   The Niger Delta as an ecosystem: The Niger Delta taken as a ecosystem which contains unique and even fragile natural environments that need to be preserved. These include the extensive coastal sand bars and islands, the fragile mangrove swamp forest, the freshwater swamp forest and the rain forest. The natural waterway system of rivers and creeks outlets. How do we address issues and concerns of environmental sustainability and sustainable development from the point of view of the Niger Delta as an ecosystem that needs to be preserved ?


2.   The Niger Delta as an agricultural centre: As an agricultural centre, the Niger Delta has an agricultural potential far beyond the carrying capacity of the approximately 15-20 million people who inhabit it. As a floodplain the soil of the river banks are renewed every year, and the following agricultural activities can be easily carried out. Root crop farming, rice and other cereal farming, livestock farming (cattle and sheep) and fish farming (traditional and artificial). How do we address the issues and concerns of environmental sustainability and sustainable development from the point of view of the Niger Delta as an agricultural centre which must generate livelihoods for its inhabitants ?


3.   The Niger Delta as a heavy industrial centre:   Because of the vast deposits of natural gas, crude oil, timber and wood resources combined with the accessible waterways, the Niger Delta is one of the foremost potential industrial centres of Nigeria. In fact it contains a large number of Nigeria’s fledgling industrial concerns such as the petrochemical industries, fertiliser, timber and plywood supply, port complexes, to name a few. How do we address the issues and concerns of environmental sustainability and sustainable development from the point of view of the Niger Delta being a heavy industrial centre that is of interest not only to Nigeria, but to the West African sub-region and the international community?


4.   The Niger Delta as a home to millions of People: As home to millions of people, the Niger Delta  must be developed with infrastructure such as viable transport networks, integrated road, river, sea and air transportation and electrification. Others include health care centres, viable schools and colleges and other higher institutions of which much has already been done, but still much is left to be desired. The development of towns and cities must take into consideration, the ecology of the area, address issues such as river bank erosion, seasonal flooding and flood control, road building and canalisation, restructuring of existing waterways to name a few. The question is how do we address the environmental sustainability and sustainable development of the Niger Delta from the point of view of it developing into a modern home for millions of inhabitants.


What we must do in conjunction with the various organisations that have an interest in the welfare of the Niger Delta (of which some are actually doing something about the environmental problems), is to identify objectively, the largest and smallest environmental and sustainable development concerns, and work towards making sure that these problems are tackled whole heartedly. On the surface people may claim that things are being done, but digging deeper we will find that the ecology and sustainable development of the Niger Delta is not being taken seriously by all those who are benefiting economically from the exploitation of the delta’s vast resources.



Pollution and Ecological Destabilisation:

The exploitation of the vast deposits of crude oil and natural gas comes with the price of environmental pollution and ecological destabilisation. The natural laws of interdependence and interrelationships, dictates that if the Niger Delta is the main source of the oil and gas resources, then it should be compensated for the attendant side effects of the exploitation of these natural resources. This is not the case. Also the international oil firms that are involved in partnership with the government of Nigeria, do not seek to implement environmental friendly methods of exploitation that would minimise pollution and ecological destabilisation. Thus from the beginning of the oil industry in the Niger Delta  in 1958, natural gas has been flared constantly, 24 hours a day, explosives have been used routinely to ascertain the whereabouts of crude oil deposits, river courses are dredged up, altered without regards for the livelihood of the local people. Waterways are blocked by artificial sand roads that lead to the oil wells. In the process whole areas that were not prone to large flooding, suddenly have a flood control problem. Large areas are deforested so that they can be filled with sand, that will go towards the construction of the foundation for the oil drilling platform, and the list goes on. Indeed the whole industry has not undertaken any environmental impact assessment on the long term effects of oil exploration and extraction.


The oil industry needs to take a new approach, one that is applicable on an international level, in their methods of exploration and extraction of crude oil and natural gas. If Nigeria is a cheap source of oil, it is because the oil firms have been allowed to get away with the criminal damage of the Niger Delta environment. Furthermore the industrial infrastructure is substandard and in a state of disrepair, posing further risks to the fragile ecological environment


The oil industry is not the only culprit in inflicting pollution and ecological degradation on the Niger Delta. The Ports complexes, inland waterway services, road building, all contribute their own negative effects due to a lack of a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA). The port complexes routinely dredge the delta estuaries for canalisation, so that big ocean going vessels can use the ports. Canalisation leads to the intrusion of salt water into areas that were previously freshwater. The freshwater vegetation die, while the wildlife perish, and the human inhabitants have no access to fresh water since the government did not see it fit to provide them with pipe borne water. The inland waterway services that ply from the main cities of Port-Harcourt, Warri, and some towns such as Burutu and Forcados, regularly pollute the river environment with their oily discharges. A visit to the watersides of the above mentioned towns will show you the extent of the pollution problems.


Another culprit inflicting ecological destabilisation are the timber and plywood industries, and the international exporters of wood (hardwood, logs e.t.c.). Whole areas are losing the forest resources to gangs of legal and not so legal loggers. At the moment nothing is being done to avert the environmental damage that will result out of deforestation of the Niger Delta. Lastly the idea that the mangrove forest should be used as a source material for the paper industry should be scrapped now, and not implemented ever. The mangrove forest is the protective shield of the Niger Delta, if it is systematically removed, then the ocean will erode the whole delta away. The mangrove swamp acts as a stabilisation base for the freshwater swamp forest and the rain-forest regions of the Niger Delta.


Road building, which is rare in the Niger delta, also contributes to ecological destabilisation of the fragile environment. The major road passing through the delta periphery is the east/west road linking Warri to Port Harcourt. The road is a necessity. But the road planners and builders, did not build the road according to the natural environment. Natural waterways have been blocked, impeding the free flow of flood water in the wet season, causing areas to experience prolonged flooding where otherwise the water would have run off naturally. The practice of building roads by sand and mud filling in, without creating canals where flood water can pass through should stop. Local communities are feeling the effects of these lapses in EIA.


Lastly the effects of damming upstream has an environmental impact on the Niger Delta, that leads to ecological destabilisation that have not even began to be quantified. We will look at this later.


Other potential sources of pollution of the Niger Delta, include large scale industrial activity upstream, such as the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, and the large scale use of fertilisers and chemicals in the north, which are drained by the River Niger.



Coastal and River Bank Erosion:

According to the Niger Delta Environmental Survey report; “Historically, for much of the Delta, the rate of [coastal] erosion has been balanced by sediment transport from the hinterland and by longshore drift. However, a number of factors, including natural delta subsidence and rising sea level, canalisation, coastal structures, large boat traffic, and decreased sediment input have promoted erosion at various locations along the delta and its major rivers, particularly at:

. Escravos: caused by the construction of two moles trapping the NNW movement of the longshore drift and resulting in shoreline retreat at a rate of between 18 and 24 m/y (Ibe, 1988);

. Forcados South Point: more than 400 m of coastal land has been eroded within the last 20 years, credited to long-term and, recently, heavy maritime traffic in the area (Ibe, 1988)

. Brass: the zone of erosion covers the Brass River to St Nicholas River barrier island and is estimated at 16-19 m/y (Oyegun 1990);

Molume mud beach area: just west of the Benin River, showing some of the highest natural erosion rates in the world due primarily to natural causes, but augmented by canal development (Gundlach et al., 1985)[4]


Coastal erosion is caused mainly by the reduced flow of the river during the dry season because of the extensive damming upstream. Other contributing factors are the canalisation of estuaries and the use of large ocean going vessels near the port complexes.


With regards to river bank erosion, this has been a natural phenomena since the delta came into being. It becomes a problem when towns and villages situated near the banks, are subjected to erosion. In this cause prevention measures must take into account the natural flow of the river.



Flood Control:

The Niger Delta is subjected to annual flooding. With or without the damming of the river upstream, the Delta will continue to flood, due to the tributaries of the River Niger, up and down stream.


The major issues of flood control, centre around the planning and building of villages, towns and cities, in such a way that the natural flood rhythm of the Niger Delta is taken account of. The flood waters can only be controlled by allowing it to disperse over as wide an areas as possible through the use of seasonal canals that feed lakes, mud flats and wetland basins.


The building of roads, and other large construction projects usually impede the smooth flow of water. This is one of the main causes of flooding in the Niger Delta urban centres such as Port-Harcourt, Warri, Ughelli, and smaller towns.



Free Flow of River and the effects of upstream Damming:

Because of the strong wet season, combined with the arrival of flood waters from the source of the Niger River, the Niger Delta is subjected to annual flooding, that brings with it a minimum amount of sediment, that goes into fertilising the agricultural flood plains, and stabilises the coastal erosion zones. In the dry season the situation deteriorates, due to the presence of numerous dams upstream, notably the Kainji dam, Jebba dam (on the Niger), plus others on the tributaries. The result is that they trap sediment that was to flow down, increase the concentration of pollutants, because more and more volumes of water are being removed. They also cause the coastal ridges to erode because of the drop in the river flow pressure on the sea currents.


There is a urgent need to look into other effects such as a reduction in migratory fish stocks, trapped above the dams. Only a sincere integrated approach, where the government of Nigeria understands that while it is seeking to develop one region of the country, the effects of such development should not be borne by another region.


Outlined above are some of the major issues of the environment of the Niger Delta that needs to be addressed and solved by the peoples of the Delta so that the our unique areas is preserved for prosterity.



[1] O’Riordan T (1995) Environmental Science for Environmental Management, p22. Longman Scientific Technical. Which States “According to the Brudtland Commission, sustainable development is ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ This automatically subsumes some notion of fairness of access to basic resource needs for all populations, both in the present day and in the future. This means transferring the opportunity of sustainable livelihoods to the very poor, through appropriate transfer of technology, capacity building in science and management, and in correct prices for resource use…”

[2]Because of this economists have been able to define sustainability on three levels, which they named; Very weak sustainability, Weak sustainability and Strong sustainability. The first two are defined in favour of capitalism and technology, while the last defines sustainability in favour of the primacy of natural ecosystems and social stability.

[3]Many of the traditional laws regulating the over exploitation of the environment take the form of deity presiding over an aspect of nature, such as a lake, river or expanse of land.

[4] Niger Delta Evironmental Survey (NDES) Phase 1 Report volume IV

First written in 1999 by Benaebi Benatari

Edgar Daniel

Simply say no to dredging the Niger Delta - the environmental impact will be so devastating. Dredging the Niger Delta is only for one purpose - it  will enable the Nigerian Government bring in their big military ships and oil tankers - I have repeatedly said this ruler, Obasanjo and the Nigerian government should not be trusted. The Americans, Brits - their oil conglomerates and our internal ruling class oppressor would stop at nothing to cage us - giving them the edge in exploiting and forcefully holding us hostage in our own environment.
I thought this dredging idea died with Abacha - resuscitated by General Abdusalam and Admiral Porbeni - yes our own Porbeni - then left in the limbo and now being put forward by this regime of Obasanjo and his pack of "jamboree leaders".
Does anyone still have a doubt about the inefficacy of the Abuja summit, the stake holders conference, coastal states committee ? - call it whatever ! - after what transpired between OBJ and Gov. Atta of Akwa Ibom State yesterday. The interruption of Governor Atta was a well orchestrated ploy of intimidation to send a psychological message of fear, entrapment and subjugation to the "leaders of the Niger delta States" in attendance or would-be committee members - the Niger Delta interlopers and sycophants in that meeting yesterday couldn’t have met a better march of greed and cynicism in the person of Obasanjo in their quest for self aggrandisement – if OBJ could shout down an elected Gov. Atta, your imagination of his attitude to other members of his handpicked committee could make vulgarism an accepted public decorum.

Who among those toady crawlers in attendance in yesterday meeting didn’t felt frightened into submission? Yesterdays altercation between OBJ and Gov. Atta is a foretaste of what to expect by members of his committee – a pervading sense of fear and anxiety as been established, I bet none of these wax lumps in the committee could speak without constrictions in their chest and throat. Those in the committee should retract and disband.
The actions of Obasanjo yesterday should help put to rest all foolish thought of good expectations by a tiny section of the Niger Delta – the moronic conclusion by some that the President is remorse and as such the committee is established in good faith to address the core issues of the Niger Delta is made to look even more stupid – when a President shouts down an elected representative of his People, in a meeting conceived to be a springboard of ideas to finding ways and workable solutions to the bedlam of problems facing the Niger Delta region -  dictator Obasanjo orientation should be tersely termed a pejorative and dyslogistic posture to the real problems and People of the region, he still doesn’t take us seriously. OBJ’s encounter with Atta has helped betrayed his real motives and that of his handpicked committee – this is a rubber stamped body put together to grandstand the demands of the People – The real stakeholders of the Niger Delta could now see how powerless those in the committee are, they can’t make any real and structural recommendations.
This President is playing a game of poker – the Niger Delta I have repeatedly said would make a mince of his third term agenda – he wants to cool off the activisms and demands of the People that could again put him in the international limelight for the wrong reasons thus derailing his third term bid. It’s a game we have allowed him to hold all the aces, and he will unleash them after consolidating his victory for a third term. It’s preconceived intentions that has informed the creation of his handpicked committee, not objectivity of real benefits to the Ijaw and Niger Delta People.
The socio-economic-political demands of MEND on behalf of the Ijaws – is a demand all Ijaws support and religiously will pursue, this struggle is holistic – it is like a reflective fluid of patriotism and duty that flows in the veins of all Ijaws and Niger Deltans.
Cry freedom for Asare Dokubo and all detained Niger Delta political prisoners, freedom for self determination of the Ijaws and Niger Delta People. The shackles of oppression and exploitation must be broken.

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