Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges for the Environment Sector in 2013

The environmental land-scape looks promising as 2013 begins with an approval by the National Assembly to allow the federal government acquire a World Bank facility to tackle erosion and other challenges in the sector, though observers are wary of the way government handled most of the issues that surfaced in 2012, wondering if 2013 may be different.

Warning:

Scientists have warned that the flood experienced in all parts of the country last year would be child's play when compared with what the country will witness in 2013.

Oftentimes, science and scientists are taken for granted as their predictions are swept under the carpet. In 2006, scientists operating under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with the prediction that climate change was real and had started impacting lives especially in developing countries, but governments across the globe treated the prediction with kids' gloves and today what the scientists predicted is gradually manifesting with hundreds of lives lost to disasters occasioned by climate change.

In Nigeria, government both past and present are not known to heed to advice of scientists, so it is important Nigerians be prepared to contend with the prediction.

"We are going to see more flooding this year. The climate is changing and there is little or nothing that can be done about it," says Prof. Pius Igbago, a climatologist.

Lagdo Dam:

Apart from changing climate, the contentious issue of Lagdo Dam in Cameroon poised another serious threat to Nigerians as the dam which was shut in September 2012 to salvage the flood situation in Nigeria would soon be reopened.

Authorities at the dam had said in a widely circulated news release that the government of Nigeria was informed of the decision to open the dam well ahead of time.

Reopening of the dam is imminent as there are limits to the pressure it can handle considering its age, among other things.

The Foundation for Public-Public Partnerships in 2012 urged government to expedite action on the construction of Dasin Hausa Dam in Adamawa State.

The dam project was conceived in 1982 to act as a buffer that would tackle the perennial flooding caused by the annual release of water from Lagdo Dam, as well as provide the whole North East arable land of about 150,000 hectares irrigation facilities.

It was discovered that the excess water discharged from Lagdo Dam last year accounted for over 80 per cent of the flood. So any opportunity to dam the water should be explored by government.

Efforts should also be made to open up the water channels along both River Benue and River Niger while structures built on flood plains be removed to allow for free flow of water should there be any release from the dam.

Great Green Wall Project:

The federal government in 2012 inaugurated a technical committee for the implementation if the Great Green Wall Project in Nigeria but nothing was heard of it as the year ended. But a government official said 2013 was the targeted year for government to mobilize both manpower and resources for the project.

The Great Green Wall is a project developed by the African Union to face desertification in South Sahara. The project, held by 11 African countries, aims at reforesting 15 million hectares along a 15 km-wide, 7,775 km-long belt, from Dakar to Djibouti.

But the Nigerian aspect of the project, passing through the 11 northern frontline states, had only existed on paper as collaborating states are still in the dark on what is expected of them even as the project, coordinated by Senegal, aims to protect the land against encroaching sand and erosion. While contributing to improved local incomes, it will be a global answer to the combined effect of natural resources degradation and drought in rural areas.

World Forest Day:

The United Nations General Assembly has set aside March 21 as International Day of Forests. The day will be observed from 2013 to celebrate and raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests and trees outside forests.

This is an opportunity for Nigeria to reforest its reserves as statistics from the Federal Ministry of Environment shows that the country has lost over 60 per cent of its forest reserve since 1960.

The records further stated that there was an absence of any deliberate programme of government that seeks to reforest the reserves. But a recent programme under the Presidential Initiatives on Afforestation funded by the Ecological Fund Office and supervised by the Ministry of Environment had raised over 30 million tree seedling since 2010.

2013 should therefore be used by government to massively create awareness on the part of Nigerians to plant as many trees as possible while the jamboree associated with the National Tree Planting Day be cut to allow for a purpose driven programme that would increase the nation's forest coverage.

Charcoal trading:

As complaint about the massive depletion of the nation's forest heightens, charcoal trade is assuming an alarming proportion. The National Council on Environment in Kaduna in 2011 placed an outright ban on the sale and export of charcoal but today charcoal from Nigeria is been exported to the Middle East while its use in the country has tripled in the last few years due to the non-availability of kerosene, a major source of fuel for households.

There is need therefore for government to come out strong on this unfortunate trade which is responsible for the large-scale felling of trees across the already depleted forest reserves in the country.

Budget:

The sector remained one of the least funded in the country even as erosion, sand dunes, oil spill and other environmental disasters are increasing on daily basis. Government should no longer fold its hands while international agencies are all over the country providing succor to Nigerians against environmental menace.

Flood windfall:

The federal government should be commended for releasing monies to states to cushion the impact of the flood on their citizens but efforts should be made to ensure that those who are entitled get what they should get as fillers from the states have shown about the windfall, like any other such monies, the governor has the right to disburse as he pleases.

"The day captures the spirit of and keeps up the momentum generated by the International Year of Forests 2011, which enabled countries to promote sustainable management, development and conservation of all types of forests and trees," the UN statement said.

It said on that day countries were encouraged to get involved in local, national and international efforts in favour of forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.

The governing conference of the FAO supports the idea of the day, while the UN General Assembly facilitated the negotiation process for its establishment.

"FAO looks forward to supporting its members and working with international partners, including the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, to help celebrate the day," the organisation said.

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