Lying lackadaisically raw and unrefined are the water ponds at the open field in Ibom Unity Park along Udo Udoma Avenue and others in Aka Offot environ in Uyo Local Government Area, capital of Akwa Ibom State.
Tracing down history, it is said the water ponds existed naturally before being expanded by human interference through flood water channeled into it.
Pond by Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo -Akwa Ibom State.
There are about six of these ponds within Aka Offot Community in Uyo LGA according to the Village Head, Etteidung Francis Morgan Udoh.
“My father and a white man discovered the place many years ago. The base of the bigger pond at Udo Udoma Avenue was filled with Calabash-chalk, what the Ibibios call ‘Ndom’ and the Igbos, ‘Nzu.'”
The bank-view of the Udo Udoma Avenue Pond close to tarred road.
According to the Village Head, the pond at Udo udoma field sprang from a calabash-chalked base. This natural resource made the source of the water to be clean and fresh.
“Why the pond stands so dirty and untapped today, contributing to environmental hazard especially to residents around the area, is due to human activities. It serves as a reservoir which flood water from Udo Umana and its environ empties.”
Still the Pond by Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo -Akwa Ibom State.
Visiting another at Atai Aka Offot, Uyo Local Government Area, the burgeoning pond is now a river-sized body of water, sandwiched by two noticeable landmarks in the area. It is behind Aka Offot Community Secondary School and Police Children School, all in Aka Offot, Uyo LGA.
Children enjoying their fishing spree at Atai Aka Offot Community Pond in Uyo LGA, Akwa Ibom State.
A testimony from Madam Janet James Udosen, an indigene of the area confirmed that the river-sized body of water was a mere little pond then as a child who grew up in the area.
“I remember as a little girl, we come to fetch water from the little pond (then) called in Ibibio ‘Ibiok.’ It was never drying even in dry season.”
All the testimonials point to the fact that the natural existence of these ponds were affected by human activities.
According to Etteidung Francis Morgan Udoh, the three others behind Champion Breweries Company, were deepened and expanded (sand excavation) by construction company handling the Uyo-Aka-Nnung Udoe Road.
Children on fishing spree.
Madam Francisca Ephraim Okon who was met weeding her little farm by the shores of the Pond at Udo Udoma Avenue said she has lived in the area for over 35 years and as seen the pond as a little one and now a big body of water due to human impact.
“There was a time before the construction of the road that a group of people visited and asked whether the water should be transformed into a fish-pond or removed completely because it used to overflow its banks into our houses during rainy season.
“Until the road was constructed and flood channelled into it, nothing was done about the pond.”
Madam Francisca Ephraim Okon in a chat with our reporter.
Camera caught Madam Francisca Ephraim Okon at her little farm by the shores of Udo Udoma Pond.
At Atai Aka Offot, Madam Janet James Udosen confirmed that the pond they used to have was expanded by flood channelled into it.
ANY ECONOMIC BENEFIT?
The first sight caught by this reporter as she arrived the waterside at Atai-Aka Offot, Uyo were groups of women engaged in farming work while further in were children at the bank of the water enjoying their fishing spree.
Enthralled, the reporter moved in towards the riverbank where the children were fishing.
One of them, Master Victory Morris Ekpe, a lad of about 15 years said fishing at the water has become their hobby as they supply their families with numerous aquatic food from the water.
Master Victory Morris Ekpe with other children on fishing spree.
“The rain of last night made the water to rise and we can not make our usual catch. On normal days, we will get a custard bucket of different species of fishes and predominant will be cat fish.
“Today, we can not go deeper because of the high-tide as the water is very deep.”
Another child who simply introduced himself as ‘aboy’ said they are all in school but they come fishing after school hours. He added that they mostly enjoyed fishing during holidays.
‘Aboy’ contemplating on the outcome of their fish hunting after a heavy down pour.
Another resident who go fishing at the Udo Udoma pond is Ette Emmanuel Effiong Umoh.
He was caught weeding his small corn farm with few stands of cassava and pumpkin leaves.
Ette Emmanuel Effiong Umoh narrating how he encountered his fishing opportunity at Udo Udoma Pond, Uyo.
When asked about the water and his activities by the pond, he had this to say.
“Many residents and dwellers around this area are afraid of the water. But I am not. I am from Etinan LGA but I stay in Uyo. I clear this small portion every year to farm until I got to know there are a lot of fishes, crabs, oyster in this water. I come hunting here on many occasions by the peripheries of the water. I don’t go inside. Even in dry season because the water is very deep.”
He added, “there are times there will be big catches here. I mean big fishes that would be sold very costly and people do pack their cars and buy them. Me too, I come here to do my little hunting for my family.”
Madam Janet James Udosen of Atai Aka Offot Community and Madam Francisca Ephraim Okon with other famers in these localities confirmed that these water bodies serves as fishing grounds to whoever is interested.
Madam Janet James Udosen telling her story at Atai Aka Offot Pond.
To them, they said they don’t go into it for fishing as the water body is dangerous.
These women said they farm by the shores of the pond year-in-year out as it serves as irrigation source to their farmlands.
HEALTHY FISHING PONDS?
Speaking with an Environmental Expert, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey said experts should be engaged by the Government to ascertain if fishes from the water are healthy since most of it are flood reservoirs.
“Town planning or Land Authorities as well as the Ministry responsible for Environment have the duty to check the safety and quality of fishes caught in these bodies of water. Are they safe for food or are they pollutants as they channeled flood into those water bodies. How healthy is the water body and how healthy is the overall aquatic-ecosystem.”
Atai Aka Offot community Pond.
ANY TOURISM POTENTIAL?
Taking a cross section of views from the locals and the Village Head of Aka Offot, Etteidung Francis Morgan Udoh, it is clear that a special specie of black birds travel in flocks to these bodies of water to feast, play and mate.
According to the Village Head, the carry eggs of various species of fishes they ate in other countries like Cameron and deposit them in the body of water while on their frequent visits.
“Birds from other countries travel in groups to these ponds. Most of the fishes in these bodies of water are special species whose eggs are brought in by these birds and hatched inside these ponds.
A little girl caught with a fish at Atai Aka Offot community Pond.
“When you visit these bodies of water you will find children fishing because there are a lot of fishes in these ponds.”
He added that experts should be engaged by the Government to determine what species of fish are in these water and how the water could be made more habitable for them. Also, if properly managed and well developed, the area can be secured so they will be a designated time whereby it is opened for fishing with little tolls and probably site-seeing.
“Is therapeutic! There is healing in nature!!,” the Village Head exclaimed excitedly.
Aside the economic value to the state and serving as source of food for families, it can attract tourists to the state. Especially those who love to relax and unwind with nature-views.
Ugo speaking to our reporter.
Another resident of the area who simply gave his name as ‘Ugo’ said, as it is obtainable in other climes, Akwa Ibom State Government can duplicate beautiful aquatic-sites in the state by turning these natural resources to money-cows and attractive nature sites.
“I am thinking ‘aqua-tourism.’ Tourism as a whole should be a diversification of Akwa Ibom State Government. More should be done about developing our tourism sector as there are a lot of untapped resources from there. Don’t you think what is obtainable in other climes can be possible here. Our leaders pay money to visit these sites when they travel out but do not think of replicating the idea in our state. We can also have those beautiful sites here and get little tolls from tourists.”
The area is usually infested with mosquitoes due to the contaminated body of water which serves as a dump sites to some residents around.
Open drain at Atai Aka Offot community Pond.
Also, the danger of open drain and unguarded body of water without monitoring or any form of caution, constitute danger as there has been reported cases of people getting drowned in these ponds.
“During rainy season, the body of water usually overflows it banks and wash away our farm lands,” one of the farmers at Atai Aka Offot lamented.
Unverified species of fish used as food can pose a serious health threat because these bodies of water are open ponds in public places; and as flood reservoirs, could easily be polluted.
An Environmental Specialist, Rev. Nnimmo Bassey said since the ponds are in public spaces, Government has the duty of securing it so it does not constitute hazard to the people; and also people don’t fish from unhealthy body of water.
He said there is need for Ministry of Environment and other relevant agencies to conduct thorough examination of the water to ascertain the quality of fishes whether they are edible and if the aquatic ecosystem is friendly.
Since there are numerous human activities around these bodies of water, there is need for precautionary measures to mitigate against negative impact.
There should be caution around areas where the drainage channels are opened to guard against accidents or drowning especially during rainy season.
These ponds in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State in the eye of tourists around the world, could become the host of Kottayam boat regatta in far away Kerala, India or the boat-carnival in near Victoria-Island, Lagos, which gathers tourists all over the world and churn in income through tourism to the state covers.
These six ponds could become Uyo boat regatta village!
NOTE: All efforts to reach the Commissioner for Tourism and Environment proved abortive as they did not respond to text messages or phone calls.
© Enwono-Abasi Elisha is a Journalist/Blogger and writes from Uyo. (firstname.lastname@example.org)