30 January 2009

Cameroon: Lake Nyos - Survivors Waiting For Re-integration Program

Twenty three years after the lake Nyos disaster, Survivors still remember the 21st August,1986 night of horror which caused the loss of some 4000 cattle and over 1700 fathers, mothers and children who died without wills and the horror that turned their traditions and culture around. In effect, it will be hard to put the story behind them. But on- the spot in the land of their ancestors it is evident that some are trying to forget the disaster with their gradual return the lake Nyos areas of Chah, Nyos and Subum which had since been declared a high risk zone.

From the look of things the risky area is becoming a free for all land with settlers from virtually all the divisions of the Region and beyond. Settlers claim that nostalgia and the fertility of the land is their driving force. Back in the seven resettlement camps planted in Menchum and Boyo divisions virtually all the 12.000 survivors pray towards the day they shall retire to their initial homeland. They are at a loss about the delay in officially launching the cfa 24 billion Cameroon, UNDP, European Union Program to ensure the security and socio- economic re-integration of the lake Nyos area.

It is the program of hope for survivors. Signed on March 22,2007, the program features the construction of some 15kms if roads from the Subum road junction, five primary schools, a college of general education, a technical college, 20 drilled wells, five markets, a cooperative, four modern health centers, an agricultural post, electrification of the entire area and the construction of security and administrative infrastructure.

It also features the tarring of an access road from lake Nyos village, rehabilitation of the Nkambe-Misaje-Kimbi, Nyos road, the Nyos- Chah-Weh-Wum, Kimbi-Fonfuka, Wum- Bafmen, Bafmen- Palem-Chah, Bafmen- Ise-Nyos, Nkambe- Nyos-Wum roads. Above all, the re-integration program has provision for the complete degassing of lake Nyos with the installation of two more pipes each of which has the capacity that is four times that of existing pipes planted in the lake waters. It will also be vital to fortify the lake's dam to avoid floods. Perhaps; it is important to indicate that a UNCEP/OCHA Mission led by Olaf Van Duin to size up the stability of the lake in September 2005 revealed that lake Nyos still offer threats of toxic gas emissions and that the dam is about to collapse with the risk of causing serious floods down valley.

Dr . Njilah, Isaac Konfor, an Expert in Geohazards and Enviromental geology has traveled to lake Nyos on research over 20 times since the killer lake spit fire in 1986. In August, 2008 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) appointed him Coordinator of the Lake Nyos project with a mission to oversee fabrication, transportation and installation of two degassing pipes in the lake, build capacities of the population in disaster prevention and management, produce a communication plan and inform and sensitize the population on their involvement in the re-integration program.

On December 31, 2008 Cameroon Tribune met Dr. Njilah at the lake site. To hear him, "The Project I head has already created and made functional a mixed crisis committee for Menchum division, trained them, built their capacities, identified and trained 30 Actors from the seven resettlement camps in 1st Aid administration. We are currently on a crisis management or contingency plan while waiting for degassing pipes to arrive from France for installation in the Lake ". In the short and long of it, the re-integration program is on course with question marks why it is yet to be officially launched to set the pace for fund raising by partners to give lake Nyos survivors a chance 23 years after.

While waiting survivors continue to suffer the pain. They are at a loss about the harsh and hard night where human beings, flies, animals and birds suffered the same cruel fate of death. It is all about the disaster which changed their traditions of one grave, one man and caused fathers, mothers and children to be dumped in the same mass graves.

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