Kingsley U.N. Chikwendu —
Head of Field Operations of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), Mr Alagoa Morris yesterday, in a field advocacy visit by the rights group, bemoaned the threat of water hyacinth on the Epie Creek in the Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. He said that the water channel serving as water transport route for several communities and fishing grounds appears to be no longer navigable. The visit was made to the leadership of Onopa community in Yenagoa.
Morris while calling on the government of Bayelsa state, including the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission to come to the aid of the Onopa residents and clear unwanted weeds, noted that the blockage of the Epie Creek by water hyacinth had resulted in economic hardship and loss of livelihood as the residents could no longer engage in their traditional fishing and farming occupation.
“This water hyacinth menace is unacceptable because it is a huge breeding ground for mosquitoes in Yenagoa, he expressed.
“Snakes and other reptiles could make this their home and it could be dangerous to human existence because they can enter homes. But, the most important is that it has denied the people of Onopa community thoroughfare to and from their farms across the creek and fishing settlements.
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“We ought to enjoy this creek as a watercourse that has fish for fisher folks. So, it is a huge denial of our people, short-changing our people of their means of livelihood and it is a threat to life. Incidentally, I heard a life was lost. And this is just by the Government House, they do not need anyone to tell them.
“We join our voice with the good people of Onopa community and Epie-Atissa to call on the authorities, especially the Bayelsa State Government, the Federal Government interventionist agencies like the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs not to allow this menace remain like this or get even worse,” the environmentalist said.
Paramount ruler of the community, Chief Morris Tamama, attributed the problem of water hyacinth to the construction of the Onopa Bridge by the state government which he said had worsened the situation. He expressed worry over the effects of weed on the community as it had prevented women, men and youths from fishing in the creek.
“It also blocked access to their plantain, banana and cassava farms, among others, he said.
“We are the host of the Government House but we have nothing to show for it. No water, no light. This water hyacinth has done a lot of harm to us. Where you are supposed to use five minutes to cross the creek, it will hold you down for at least one hour before you can cross.
“Last year, someone died in the creek because he was stuck in the water hyacinth and because there was no communication, he died before the following day,” Tamama added.