By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE 260-kilometre Superhighway project executed by the Cross River State Government has come under serious criticism as some environmental scientists under the auspices of the Alliance of Leading Environmental Research and Thinkers, ALERT, alleged that the Cross River National Park has been endangered by the project.
This was stated by Director, ALERT, James Cook University, Australia, Prof William Laurance, who led other environmental scientists on assessment of the project described it as peril to the wild life park.
According to Laurance the Cross River National Park sustains two-thirds of Nigeria’s surviving tropical rainforest, and millions of trees have been bulldozed along the proposed road route.
He also argued that the proposed superhighway if completed could rapidly worsen a deepening environmental and social crisis in Nigeria.
He said: “Nigeria needs better roads, but this is one of the most ill-conceived infrastructure projects we’ve seen anywhere. Southern Nigeria in general, and Cross River National Park in particular, are some of the most biologically and culturally important real estate on the planet.
“It would be tragic if they were destroyed or severely degraded by such a short-sighted development scheme.”
He also alleged that the Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, of the project had technical itches.
“Independent analyses on the Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA, have shown it to be a technical farce, and its validity is being challenged in a lawsuit brought by nongovernmental groups in Nigeria,” he stated.
In his assertion a researcher Nigerian Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, and member of ALERT, Dr. Mahmoud Mahmoud, said, “As currently proposed, the highway would slice through the most critical forested areas of Nigeria.
“It would open up a Pandora’s box of environmental problems, such as illegal deforestation, poaching, and encroachment, especially for Cross River National Park.
“We can only hope that common sense prevails. There are alternative routes for the highway that would be far less damaging to the environment and local peoples.”
Another member of ALERT and former environmental advisor to three United States’ Presidents, Prof Thomas Lovejoy, referred to the Cross River National Park as the ‘Biological Jewel’ of Nigeria, said the country has lost nine-tenth of her forest resources.
“Nigeria has already lost nine-tenths of its forests, with much of its surviving forest being fragmented and over hunted. In this context, Cross River National Park is irreplaceable—a biological jewel.
“It sustains a remarkable 18 species of primates, including the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla plus other imperilled wildlife such as forest elephants and leopards”, Lovejoy added.