ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has deplored the menace of water hyacinth on Epie Creek in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.
The state Coordinator, ERA/FoEN, Mr Alagoa Morris, spoke during a field advocacy visit by the environmental rights group to the leadership of Onopa community on Thursday.
Morris said that the blocking 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.
He, therefore, called on the Bayelsa State Government, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to come to the aid of Onopa people and clear the accumulated weeds.
Morris, while speaking by the waterside noted: “This (water hyacinth) is unacceptable because it is a huge breeding ground for mosquitoes in Yenagoa; 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. We ought to enjoy this creek as a watercourse that has fish for fishermen and women.
“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 (problem) 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 intervention agencies such as the NDDC, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs not to allow this menace remain like this or get even worse.”
The paramount ruler of the community, Chief Morris Tamama, said the problem of water hyacinth was worsened by the construction of the Onopa Bridge by the state government.
Tamama lamented that the weed had caused the community people agony as it had prevented women, men and youths from fishing in the creek, regretting that they lost a resident to the menace last year.
He equally said that the menace had blocked access to their plantain, banana and cassava farms, among others.
The monarch 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 and because there was no communication, he died before the following day; as a result of mosquito bites he fell inside the water and died.”