June 12, 2009

Worsening environmental disorders as Nigeria marks WED

By Jude Njoku

TO say that  Nigeria  is under siege is not an understatement. The Sahara desert is expanding at an increasingly alarming rate with whole villages in the North disappearing under sand dunes. Affected villagers have become refugees in their own country.

The story is similar in the Southern parts of the country where the surging Atlantic Ocean is threatening coastal cities. Lagos, unarguably the country’s financial and industrial pillar and the Niger Delta region daily witness increasing sea level rise and the attendant floods while the South east has become the theatre of gully erosion and associated disasters.

Lagos Bar beach

Lagos Bar beach

Besides, the country’s urban centres are also under the siege of man made environmental disaster such as the illegal dumping of solid wastes along major streets and highways and the unplanned nature of developments which have given rise to the growth of slummy neighbourhoods.

The ozone layer which reduces the ultra violent rays of the sun is also said to be depleting at an alarming rate. Although Nigeria which joined the rest of the world last Friday to celebrate the World Environment Day (WED) is already feeling the negative impacts of climate change, it is worrisome that little or no attention is paid to it by the authorities concerned.

Experts posit that  Nigeria’s march to economic development may be hampered by the adverse effects of a changing climate on the economy and environment.

Executive Director of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF),  Professor Emmanuel Obot identified  lifestyles and willingness as key to change. “If people talk about development and begin to cut down trees which increase the probability of climate change, then they should realise that such acts do not promote development,” he said.

Prof. Obot who spoke at a forum organised by the foremost environment NGO to mark the WED at its Lekki Conservation Centre called on  individuals and organisations to see climate change as an issue that requires everyone to make efforts through adopting lifestyles that preserved the ecosystem.

NCF, Prof. Obot said, considered the issue as one posing a serious challenge to the future health and prosperity of the planet because  climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and a country like Nigeria lacks the necessary infrastructure to respond adequately.

To Mr. Ewah Otu Eleri, Coordinator of the Nigeria Climate Action Network (NigeriaCAN), climate change has become a defining moment for the country. Eleri opined that climate change could deepen poverty and undermine efforts to achieve the Federal Government’s Vision 2020 goals if the country continued to approach the situation with levity.

Eleri who is also director, International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development declared: “The desert expanse is expanding and  whole communities are being uprooted in the North. How we address climate change will therefore define our ability to tackle poverty in the North.

There is a fundamental shift of weather patterns all over the country. Rivers are drying up. Erosion is causing an ecological emergency in the South East while the vast investments along Victoria Island and the Lekki Peninsula are under threat by sea level rise. We must act now,” he warned

Speaking at a WED forum in Abuja, Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey agreed that the effects of a changing climate are evident across the length and breadth of this country. They include but not limited to desert encroachment in the northern part of Nigeria, gully erosion in the south eastern part of the country, sea level  rise and flooding in various parts of the country and water salinity.

He also agreed that the negative effects on the nations are numerous and diverse-food security challenges, damage to the few existing infrastructure, threats to health due to rising temperature and different forms of social dislocation. Mr. Odey who noted that the theme of this year’s WED -“Your Planet need you, Unite to combat Climate Change” -shows the urgency for nations to unite and agree on a new deal to combat climate change, posited that  President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is concerned with the rising level of global carbon emission which leads to changes in the climate.

The Minister apparently reacting to charges that the Federal government is not doing enough to mitigate the effects of climate change outlined various efforts the government has made to mitigate the negatives impacts of climate change on Nigerians. According to him, the Ministry of Environment is presently “focusing on the implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and other climate change friendly projects.

These projects include: The recovery of associated gas that would have been flared at the Kwale oil-gas processing plant for energy generation; the Pan Ocean gas utilisation project recently registered by the Executive Board of the CDM; integrated waste management projects, promotion of the cultivation of wood-fuel plantation and rainforest management and nursery development.

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.