By Demola Akinyemi
To battle climate change, Kwara State government has announced the closure of forests for one month, from Monday, March 2, in respect of all activities, except farming.
The government had expressed worries that indiscriminate activities in the forests are fast disrupting the state’s ecosystem and exposing it to severe effects of climate change.
Commissioner for Environment, Aliyu Saifudeen, said this at a briefing in Ilorin, on Monday.
He said: “The government is very worried about the rate of wanton deforestation for both legal and illegal purposes such as charcoal and other wood resources/products without commensurate regeneration.
“This is causing a tremendous imbalance in our ecosystem and climate change. Accordingly, the ministry has taken a painful decision to ‘close the forest’ for all kinds of activities for a minimum period of one month and a maximum of three beginning from March 2.
“This will enable us to take stock of what is left of that natural endowment for further action and the inventory of what goes on therein. Consequently, all economic activities, except farming, are hereby suspended within the period forthwith with offenders liable to prosecution.
“During, and at the end of the closure, all those who have any business to do with the forest are required to make themselves available to the ministry for fresh registration, including farmers whose farmlands are in excess of 25 hectares.”
Saifudeen, therefore, said the government will embark on massive tree planting to be flagged off by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and Minister of Environment, Mohammad Abubakar, later in May, a step he asserted was needed to address the question of deforestation and climate change.
“There is a policy of cut one tree and plant five. And for each new site being developed, a number of trees will be planted. This has not been complied with totally. A strict adherence to this policy would have salvaged, to an extent, our predicament of deforestation,” he added, saying the policy would be replicated at every local government area of the state.
The commissioner, who announced ongoing sensitisation of the populace on the need to sanitise their state, said the government would also embark on enforcement of the law banning obstruction of traffic flow through indiscriminate trading on roadsides and median and street begging.
He lamented that such practices constitute serious threats to millions of people.
He said: “We have received positive feedback as it concerns ‘Post Office’ and ‘Challenge’ junctions. I want to use this opportunity to call on road users to adhere to the traffic rules and to our traders to desist forthwith from displaying their wares, including firewood, on the roads especially on the pedestrian walkways.
“Another major concern is the invasion of our road median by beggars and refuse. Affected areas are mostly at Oja Oba, Gambari, Balogun Fulani, Ipata, Idi Ape etc.”
The commissioner, meanwhile, announced a reorganisation of the state waste management contractors for efficiency, saying a new model is being explored to ease the incidents of refuse dumps in the state, especially in the capital.
To further fight the effect of climate change, he called for mass supper for the state’s environmental sanitation, appealling to Kwarans to vacate flood plains and to keep their environment clean and free of refuse to ward off flooding as another rainy season draws near.
“A new and more mechanised approach will be unleashed, especially in Ilorin Metropolis by the beginning of April. Preceding the foregoing and in the whole of March, experimental waste management would be conducted strictly by the ministry. All residents are requested to give maximum cooperation to the operatives,” he said.
“We shall soon welcome the rains. We call on residents to embark on the desilting of the gutters and run-off channels around their premises to keep them clean for ease of water flow and make such places uncomfortable for rodents and other vectors of diseases, such as mosquitoes and even dangerous reptiles.
“This is also important to forestall the calamity of flood. The ministry, on its own part, will soon begin the massive desilting of major drainage channels across the city. All those living around the Asa River banks and any other river across the state, such as in Pategi, Kaiama, should ensure zero tolerance for refuse dumping into the rivers. We also appeal to those living on flood planes to please quit with immediate effect.”