Abuja — The economic value of losses due to forest destruction in the country has been put at $750 million (about N105 billion) annually.
Director-General of the National Space Research Development Agency (NSRDA), Prof. Robert Boroffice, stated this while speaking to newsmen on the agency's plan to set up a geo-information system based on forest monitoring in Nigeria, known as 'GEOFORMIN.
Quoting statistics from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the D-G said if the current rate of deforestation was allowed to continue unchecked, the remaining forest area in Nigeria may disappear by 2020.
He said the growing decline in the aerial coverage of forest had been a source of concern to the Federal Government, adding that a number of measures have been embarked upon to stem the trend.
He listed some of these measures to include, the Protected Area Programme (PAP), the Nigerian Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), National Forestry Programme (NFP) and Forestry Component of the Environmental Management Project (EMP).
Borroffice said all these measures have been on without significant progress being made to conserve forest and save it from destruction, hence the need to develop a new technique to monitor the sector. According to him, the major problem with forestry management in Nigeria is the lack of geo-spatial database.
"There is a consensus among scientists that satellite images provide a reliable means for adequate and regular monitoring of the forest estate," he said.
However, the country has not benefited from this technology because of lack of access to the much needed image data source since the country lacked its own satellite receiving station.This apparent disadvantaged position the country found itself was reversed with the coming on stream of the NigeriaSAT-1.
"With NigeriaSat-1 currently in its orbit and NigeriaSat-2 being planned for 2009. as well as a Ground Receiving Station now operational in Abuja, the problem of availability of image data source for sustainable forest monitoring seems to have been solved in Nigeria", he said.
He said a study on deforestation monitoring was commissioned in January, last year to cover the four geo-political zones of the country using NigeriaSat-1.
Borroffice said the agency would use the opportunity of the stakeholders workshop in Abuja, to present the finding recorded by the project.
The D-G said as a follow-up to the project, the agency along side the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), The Netherlands are planning to set up a geo-information system-based forest monitoring in Nigeria, known as 'GEOFORMIN'.
Boroffice said GEOFORMIN is capable of setting the pace for future forest monitoring efforts in the country.
"It is not just another pure scientific research agenda, it contains a strong institutional/capacity building component, with potential for fast tracking the country into the nucleus of contras with well-established geo-information based sustainable forest management", he said.
NSRDA boss said when GEOFORMIN takes off, it would facilitate the use of NigeriaSat-1 as a data source for training at ITC and open the satellite to more international market.