By Emma Una
CALABAR—CROSS River State Forestry Commission has begun the cultivation of the biggest forest in West Africa with the planting of five million indigenous species of trees across the state which in addition to the existing forest reserves will form large canopy on roads and parks across the state
Mr Bette Obi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission told Vanguard, weekend in Calabar that improved indigenous species of tree seedlings are being planted in designated areas across the state.
“We have both timber and economic tree seedlings which we are planting in designated areas in the 18 local government areas stretching over 100,000 hectres across the state and this will culminate to the largest forest in West Africa,” he said.
He said that volunteers have been recruited to plant the tree seedlings which, include mahogany, gmelina, oak, mangoes, oranges and guava with some meant to serve as economic trees for communities where they are planted while others will serve as timber to function as biodiversity canopy alongside the present forest reserves in the state.
Obi stated that the Cross River State governor was environment friendly and had put in place effective structures that will manage the rainforest with the creation of the Ministry of Climate Change and the appointment of Special Adviser on Biodiversity, who are working in conjunction with the forestry Commission to plant the forest.
According to him, the 260 kilometre superhighway which is a signature project of Governor Ayade is a welcome development to strike a balance between conservation and infrastructure development
“The governor has put in place a task force on anti-deforestation and has also introduced policies to checkmate illegal wood logging activities with a total ban on timber exploitation in the state so our forests are well protected. It is therefore, surprising that some environmentalists have continued to attack the noble intentions of Governor Ayade, who made the construction of the 260 km superhighway one of his signature projects. As a commission, we believe that conservation and infrastructural development must strike a balance.
“Cross River State holds over 50 percent of the last remaining tropical rainforests in Nigeria. It is listed as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world which is rich in flora and fauna with such rare species of animals such as gorillas, drill monkeys and others found in the wild and the state movement is doing everything to protect these species.
“We in the commission is satisfied that the state government has evolved necessary safeguards required for the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment proposal conducted by the government and therefore, call on the Federal Ministry of Environment to grant approval for the continuation of the superhighway super highway project.”