3 April 2011

Nigeria: In Preservation of Wetlands

Lagos — Nigeria, no doubt, is endowed with coastal and inland wetlands, which is said to cover about 3 per cent of the country's land surface.

The fact that these wetlands are of ecological, economic, socio-cultural, scientific and recreational isignificance cannot be over-emphasised. Yet, all may not be well in this area as Nigeria's wetland resources are being threatened by climate change and global warming.

In Lagos, owing to the growing population, more people now reside in wetlands. Some of these areas include Aboru community, Agiliti and Ajegunle Owode area in Ikorodu part of the state. And although the state government urged those living in wetland areas to relocate to safer places, because of the attendant flooding challenge, many still stay there and investigations indicated that they are not ready to move away from these areas.

Every day, wetlands are being sand-filled, and indeed people are encroaching on flood-plain areas.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

In the spirit of convention 1971 in Iranian City of Ramsar, the Lagos State Government joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Wetland Day.

The event was to draw attention to the urgent need to protect and preserve wetlands in the state.

Professor Toyin Ogundipe of the University of Lagos who delivered a lecture on the theme "Wetlands and Forests: Forests For Water and Wetlands" hinted that there was the need to start preserving wetland in the state to avoid abuse as a result of fast growing pressure on land for development.

He noted that development and preservation of the wetlands could be undertaken simultaneously citing New York, Singapore and some other Cities he described at literally living on water like Lagos as example.

The guest lecturer defined wetlands as the transition zones between land and aquatic system. He also affirmed that about 3 per cent of the earth surface is covered by wetlands. The professor classified wetlands into Palustrine, Marine, Estuarine, Riverine or Riparian, Lacustrine, Swamp, Marshes.

Ogundipe warned that it would be unwise to assume that Tsunami cannot happen in Nigeria and therefore throw caution into the wind, even as he observed that one of abuses of wetland either by building them up or turning them to refuse dump is flooding which could come in any time magnitude with dire consequences.

Professor Ogundipe highlighted the economic benefits of wetlands to include natural water quality improvement, flood protection, shoreline erosion control, opportunities for recreation and aesthetic appreciation and natural products. "Wetlands also serve as habitat for animals", he said.

Professor Babajide Alo, a consultant to the Lagos State Government on environment, while addressing the audience warned that wetlands should not be assumed to be a wasteland adding that states that regarded wetlands as wastelands ran into big trouble. He stressed that wetlands should not be converted for residential and commercial purposes.

While reacting to questions from the audience, professor Alo advised that government to make laws to protect wetlands noting that wetlands serve as buffer zones and carbon sink. He observed that there is natural progression of human being towards water, citing the high population in riverine areas as a major cause.

The Permanent Secretary, Office of Environmental Services of the Ministry, Dr. Titi Anibaba revealed that the state government has completed a study of the existing wetlands and the level of encroachment and abuse with the view to taking decision on how to preserve them.

She was positive that sooner than later, the state position will be made known by the appropriate authority and the concerned organ of government will get directives as to how to protect them.

Anibaba said that the World Wetland Day was celebrated by the ministry to create awareness on the need for the preservation of the world's biodiversity to keep the ecosystem on its balance environment. "Wetland is part of the ecosystem and therefore plays crucial roles in ecosystem."

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