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Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011


C. J. OHAGWU, M. Eng1., B. O.UGWUISHIWU, Ph.D2., and J.N.NWAKAIRE,M.Eng3
Department of Agric. & Bioresources Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Attention is drawn to gully erosion threats and
problems in southeastern Nigeria with emphases
in Enugu , Anambra and Imo State. The causes
and gully erosion mechanism are also evaluated
with the view of ascertaining the possible
solutions to incessant road damage and pot-holes.
Some spots of road damage and widespread of
pot-holes on the roads were visited, its pictures
taken as well as vehicular traffic rates. The basic
steps to biotechnical gully control measures are
highlighted and recommended thus appealing for
Federal and international financial support for
necessary research, data collection, design and
construction works.
Keyword: Gully Erosion, Nigeria Road, and

weak economies (Nick Husher,2005). If the

relative value of the goods transported is low, the
cost overhead for transportation is high. The
reason for the relatively high cost of transport
and the low value of the products movedis
partially self-fulfilling (Nick, 2005). Because
there are few valuable products to transport, there
will be no transportation infrastructure to transport
them. Because there is no way to transport
valuable products reliably and cheaply to places
where they might be marketed, there is no
incentive to produce valuable products. If there is
a correlation between transport systems and
economic strength, part of the reason for modern
Nigeria's economic weakness is its lack of a
strong transportation architecture ( DrummondThompson,1990). The current state of Nigerian
transportation is a product of fifty years of
colonial rule and mismanagement and another
forty of relative neglect under self-rule. Civilian
Transportation is a requirement for every
governments were often under-funded and their
nation-underdeveloped, developed /developing,
priorities were on maintaining regional divisions
regardless of its industrial capacity, population
instead of maintaining transportation networks.
size, or technological advancement. Movement of
This policy may have been self-fulfilling; by
goods and people (services) from one place to
reinforcing regional divisions the appeal of interanother is critical to maintain strong economic
state and region transport infrastructure was
and political relationship among people within
further reduced. While some of the handful of
and outside the state. How these movements take
military governments were interested in
place can be unique to location and technological
developing better transportation systems, they
development, but the requirement remains the
were often long term pipe dream-like solutions
that would be solved with the anticipated funds.
Transportation derives demand from the things
This is evident in the practice of National
that it moves-it is only a valid economic force if
Development Plans that was never in place. In
there are valuable things to transport. The goods
addition, there is an ever-increasing amount of
and services that are moved through
stress on Nigerian road transport systems as the
transportation network could be grain silage,
demand for transport services increases/rises
electronics, or business executives etc. The cost of
moving things from one place to another are
Finally, the Nigerian transport systems
enormous, whether it is measured in currency or
designed under colonial rule and maintained under
other values, it is typically stable over time,
civilian rule were poorly designed and are unable
meaning that the relative cost of transporting a
to scale up to meet greater demand, a design flaw
product decreases as the value of the product
which causes traffic congestion on roads, with
being transported increases. This phenomenon
mass-transport blind spot and pot-holes
become important when examining nations with
(Walker,1959). These pressures on the transport
Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011

systems degenerate over time as a result of

climate changes and erosion menace in the region
due to the ecological zone of the region. This
work is expected to expose the causes and gully
erosion mechanism as it affects road
transportation, and also to evaluate its threats with
the view of ascertaining the possible solutions to
continuous road damages and pot-holes.
The process by which soil particles are
detached from some locations, transported and
deposited at other locations by climatic agents
such as rain water and wind is often referred to as
soil erosion. The two major types of soil erosion
are geological erosion and accelerated (or man
influenced) erosion. Geological erosion includes
soil-formation as well as soil distribution
processes that maintain the soil in a favourable
balance, suitable for the growth of most plants
(Schwab et al, 1981). Accelerated erosion refers
to erosion process influenced by mans (human)
activities. Any human activity that destroys the
protective natural vegetation, leaving the soil
surface bare predisposes it to accelerated erosion.
Examples of agricultural activities that lead to
accelerated erosion include uncontrolled bush
burning, inappropriate land clearing methods as
seen in road construction, improper tillage
practices, over-grazing and pulverization of the
soil along animal tracks by their hooves. Soil
erosion by water is classified as splash, rill, gully
and stream channel erosion. Splash (or rain drop)
erosion results from the impact of falling rain
drops directly on wet soil or thin water surfaces.
As runoff from rainfall concentrates in surface
depressions, sufficient soil may be removed to
form small but well-defined channels. At the
initial stage when these channels do not seriously
interfere with normal tillage operations/
Agricultural activities, they are called rills. Rills
are often ignored till they develop into gullies, the
stage at which they cannot be smoothed over by
normal tillage operations. Soil removal from
stream banks or soil movement in the stream
channel is known as stream channel erosion.
Unless we clearly understand the cause and
nature of any problem, any attempt to solve

the problem is usually a guess work. The major

factors affecting soil erosion are climate,
topography, vegetation and soils. The major
climatic factors influencing runoff and erosion are
rainfall, temperature and wind. Of these three,
rainfall is most significant. To control any form of
soil erosion by water in any location, we need
rainfall data of the location. The erosivity of the
rains of any location is the potential ability of the
rain to detach soil particles from one part of the
watershed and transport them to another part of
the watershed. The erodibility of the soils in a
location is the vulnerability or susceptibility of the
soil particles to detachment and transportation by
the erosive forces. The physical characteristics of
rainfall that contribute to the erosivity include the
rainfall amount, intensity, duration, drop size,
drop size distribution and terminal velocity. Two
major soil properties that influence the erodibility
of soils are the texture and the structure. southeast
region has a friable to loose texture of soil. The
rate of gully erosion depends mainly on the runoff
producing characteristics of the watershed, the
watershed area, soil characteristics, the alignment,
size, and shape of gully; and the slope of the gully
bed. The main processes in the development of a
gully are waterfall erosion and channel erosion.
Gullies usually start with channel erosion,
essentially the scouring a way of the soil by
concentration of runoff as it flows over
unprotected depressions. As the scouring
continues, the gully becomes longer, deeper, and
wider. The extension in length is usually much
faster than the widening of the gully because a
greater volume of runoff passes over the gully
head than over the sides. Through water fall
erosion, the head of the gully wade back up
stream. The water fall action scours the soil where
it lands and also splashes against the face of the
gully head and makes an undercutting of the base.
The bottom of the face is eroded away leaving the
top over hanging. When the undercutting is deep
enough, the overhanging breaks off, slides down
to the channel bed, and is washed down the slope
by runoff. The above discussed mechanism is
what is prevalent and witnessed in the region as
such susceptible to the gully erosion menace due
to its strategic location in Nigerian as seen in

Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011

Table 1.0: Gully Size Distribution in South-eastern States of Nigeria.

of Stage
of Control
Not successful
Mostly active
Not successful
No record
Not successful
Not successful
These ecological havoc did not leave the road transportation network in these zone alone rather it
metastasized into the network with unprecedented socio-economic and political divides between people and
among people. These have made the zone a difficult terrain to transport goods and services to other parts of
the country as such are disadvantaged with huge investment in road construction. Some of the surveyed roads
that have damaged by the gully erosion are shown below in figures 1.0-9.

Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011

Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011

Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011

Table 2: Shows the Rate of Traffic On Some Selected Road in South-Eastern States.
Highway Roads(trunk A)
Rate of vehicular Transportation
9thMile-Opi-Makurdi Express way 1600
Express way
Complete rehabilitation
Express way


The rate of traffic of goods and services
across these roads understudy as seen in Table 2
above have shown that the roads are under
pressure for services with 9th Mile Opi- Makurdi
express way having about 1600 traffic/day,
Enugu-Okigwe-Portharcourt express way having
about 1800 traffic/12-hours-day and OnitshaOwerri-Portharcourt express way having 1950
traffic/day with attendant maintenance by Federal
Road Maintenance Agency. At every point in
time, these roads are undergoing some levels of
maintenance- from surface asphalting to complete
rehabilitation. One of the major causes of road
dilapidation, all things being equal, could be
either the roads are always in a high demand by
the road user, or that the road constructed was not
properly maintained/ constructed. Of course,
every well design and constructed road should
have functional drainages or the inherent nature
of the area if not taken into consideration also
predisposes the road to damages like pot-holes,
carve-in, ditches, cracks, gallops and gully erosion
insurgence. Therefore, if the causes are well
then the challenges of road
transportation in Nigeria can now be tackled with
very low traffic accidents.
Vegetation can reduce gully erosion on roads as
Interception of rainfall by vegetative
canopy, absorbing the impact of falling
raindrops, thereby minimizing the
dispersion of soil by energy of the rain drops.

Decreasing runoff velocities by well
distributed close growing vegetation thus
reducing the erosive capacity of the
Restraining of soil movement by the
knitting and binding effects of root systems in
soil profile.
Increasing soil aeration, providing better
activities and other biological influences
enhancing the permeability of the soil.
Restoring soil storage capacity for rain
water thus decreasing runoff
Adding organic matter to the soil by
plant residue thus improving aggregation and
porosity of the soil which reduce runoff.
By the selection of suitable plants and the use of
special planting techniques an erosion resistant
plant cover will be established as part of gully
control measures. The plants will help stabilize
the gully slopes and may also offer supplementary
income to the community. Planting the sides of
gullies is often difficult, because they are usually
steep, unstable, and eroding. When economically
feasible, the gully banks can be levelled to a
gentle uniform slope by heavy earthmoving
machinery before seeding or planting. Since the
banks are almost sure to be infertile subsoil, some
extra fertility(manure) must be added. In severely
eroded and gullied areas ,trees, shrubs and woody
plants are used instead of crop plants or pasture.
Small and medium size gullies may often be
converted into grassed water ways. A practical
way to transform a gully into a satisfactory water
way is to shape it and seed it to adapted species of
grasses. The channel cross section should be
broad and flat to keep the water spread uniformly
over a wide area. Soil chutes may be successfully
Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011

used to control over falls in gullies with heads less

than 3m and drainage area less than 10 hectares. A
sod chute merely serves the purpose of conducting
runoff water through it at a safe velocity.
Another major step in gully erosion control on
road is to plan the control of runoff from the
drainage area. Some of the methods employed in
controlling runoff are as follows:
Runoff retention in the drainage area.
Diversion of runoff around the gullied
Conveyance of runoff through the gully.
Runoff Retention
By design and construction of earth embankment
at various strategic locations, considerable amount
of runoff water can be retained in the drainage
area like earth pond for community water storage
Diversion Of Runoff Around The Gullied Area
With the understanding that the destructive energy
of water flowing on bare soil surface
is the root cause of gully erosion, the most
effective gully control measure is the complete
elimination of runoff into the gullied area and
converting the gully area into forests or grasslands
(Michael and Ojha, 2003). Terraces and diversion
ditches are commonly used to divert runoff from
its natural outlet. Terraces are effective in the
control of small gullies on cultivated fields or
even medium size shallow gullies.
Conveying Runoff Through Gullies
If it is not possible to retain runoff in the
watershed area or divert it from the gully area,
then care will be exercised in conveying it through
the gully. Bio-technical gully erosion control
methods involve establishing vegetation on gully
banks and beds designing and installing
mechanical structures at critical points to give
primary or supplementary control.
Structures are used in gully erosion control
especially insurgence scouring road banks to
facilitate the establishment of vegetation or to
provide protection at points that cannot be
adequately protected in any other way. They are
usually used in gullies through which the runoff
must be conveyed. These structures are mostly

various types of dams constructed for the purpose

of stabilizing the grade and reducing runoff
velocities. When the runoff is not excessive and
can be controlled by a well-stabilized vegetation,
temporary structures may be used in the gullies
until the vegetation is established. Temporary
structures are made of locally available materials
like brush, poles, woven wire, loose rock and
plants or slabs ,even stockpiles of sand in bags.
Whenever the erosion power of rainfall
and runoff overcome the inherent resistance of
soil in any location lacking adequate vegetative
cover soil erosion starts. The situation of many
parts of southeastern Nigeria favour the
development of gully erosion and as such the road
transportation network was not left in isolation
rather it is also under threat of gully erosion.
Southeastern part of Nigeria needs a unique
blueprint /standards for construction companies
coming to execute road transportation projects in
area or master plan with regards to controlling
gully erosion on road transportation systems.
Bio-technical control measures requires rainfall
data of the runoff catchment area, design and
installation of runoff collection ponds at strategic
locations on the catchment areas for rural water
supply and small scale irrigation purposes,
investigation on suitable vegetation for gully bank
stabilization in the locality and development of
appropriate gully control structures from available
local materials.
consultants and agencies charged with
responsibility for maintaining these roads should
put into consideration the uniqueness of the areas
and the volume of traffic the uses these road at
any point in time.
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Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011

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Nigerian Society of Engineers Annual Conference Proceedings CANAAN 2011