By Emmanuel Edukugho
The 2010 International Conference on “Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection – Strategies and procedures for Developing countries” began Tuesday at the Multipurpose Hall of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State, with experts from five continents of the world attending.
The conference is sponsored by Bells University of Technology in conjunction with Institute for Environment Research and Development.
In his welcome address at the opening ceremony, Professor Isaac Adebayo Adeyemi, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said that being a private institution, it believes in the principle of PPP, be it public-private partnership or private-private partnership.
This approach has enabled the University to establish linkages and working relationships with public or private organisations in order to foster one of the academic objectives of the university which is: “To promote international co-operation through linkages in pursuit of research, staff and student exchanges.”
He stated that this explained the basis for the university in partnering with the Institute for Environmental Research and Development (IERD). The colleges of Engineering and Environmental Sciences through the Dean, Professor Biodun Adesanya and the Acting Head, Department of Architecture, Dr. Samuel Daramola were appreciated for been instrumental in fostering a working relationship with IERD.
According to Adeyemi, it is an understatement that man is a product of his environment but rather it is apt to say that survival of man is dictated largely by his environment.
“Perhaps at no time in the annals of history has man been faced with the challenges of climatic changes due to a combination of natural factors and human activities; the latter being mainly through urbanization and industrialisation. These challenges have consistently stared man in the face, more especially in the last thirty years.”
He reminded the delegates that they have gathered here to proffer solutions to challenges that developing nations are facing and would face as a result of global climatic changes (or perhaps changing climate).
The VC hoped that at the end of the conference, “practical and implementable recommendations would be made that would serve as position paper for developing countries at the Mexico 2010 UN-Global Summit on climate change.”
He added that more importantly is the need to ensure that any developing country can tap into the pool of ideas expected to be generated in stemming the tide of “changing climate” in its immediate geographical or ecological zone.
In his keynote presentation, former Vice-chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Professor Adeniyi Osuntogun, said there is need in promoting strategies and procedures for sustainable development and protection of the environment.
He explained some of the elements in promoting sustainability of the environment, the developments so far recorded and the prices to pay. Also mentioned were the challenges which include food security, urbanisation, socio-economic factors, etc.
He pointed out that in the midst of all these challenges, humanity has not folded its hands and watch without reacting the environmental degradation. The need for strategy for sustainable living was highlighted, referring to Agenda 21 which is the first document to emphasise the need to make national environmental development sustainable.
“It’s only when you have strategies on the ground that you can tackle the challenges of environmental sustainability.”
He noted that these challenges are not peculiar to Africa or the developing nations but also the developed countries.
Osuntogun came out with measures to improve these strategies, especially in Africa. Three things were suggested to be done: (i) Comprehensive and integrated social, economic and environmental objectives that can be negotiated.
(ii) Consensus and clear framework for change.
(iii) Comprehensive analysis, which depend on credible information, be sure of the priorities and have financial resources to achieve all these objectives.
Above all, the strategies must be people-oriented not externally directed, while also there should be consensus with government properly involved to provide leadership.
The Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey, who was supposed to be guest of honour was represented. He said the conference provided another opportunity to raise public awareness regarding the issue of ensuring that our environment is not compromised while embarking on our socio-economic developments.
Chairman of the event, Professor Akin Mabogunje, Chancellor, Bells University of Technology, in his opening remarks, noted that although a majority of participants are from within Nigeria, “we do have some of you who have travelled great distances to be with us on this occasion,” and hoped they will find their visit to Nigeria most exciting and rewarding.
He referred to the comments of the former UN secretary-general, Mr. Kofi Annan, who in his Millennium Report to the General Assembly in 2001 noted that the three grand challenges facing the international community at the dawn of the 21st century are “freedom from want, freedom from fear and the freedom of future generations to sustain their lives on planet.”
Mabogunje asserted: “These three grand challenges, especially the third, follow on the growing international concern about not only the poverty that pervades most developing countries especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, but also how well humanity as a whole is using the natural planetary resources and keeping the earth’s life-support systems wholesome enough to continue to sustain human life well into the future.”