World Environment Day: Is Nigeria Really Interested In Tackling Its Environmental Challenges? By Muhammed Ibrahim
The World Environment Day (WED), which is celebrated on the 5th of every June. It is a day set aside to reflect and direct our attention on the need to protect, conserve and preserve the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.
The history of the WED traced back to the 1972 when world leaders assembled in Stockholm, Sweden to canvass on the need to tackle environmental challenges- especially on the premise that environmental degradation is now a subject of global and local concern. Having deliberated for a while, the United Nations General Assembly by virtue of their resolution, designated the 5th of every June, as World Environment Day.
According to John McCormick in the book Reclaiming Paradise, “Stockholm was without doubt the landmark event in the growth of international environmentalism”.
“It was the first occasion on which the political, social and economic problems of the global environment were discussed at an inter-governmental forum with a view to actually taking corrective action.”
It is also a day set to invoke and encourage politicians and other distinguished dignitaries to participate fully on issues relating to the environment. The first World environment day was celebrated on the 5th of June in 1973, and since then, different cities have been used to celebrate the important day.
World leaders took into cognisance the reality that there is only one mother earth, and if subsequently destroyed through man’s anthropogenic activities, then nature is also tempered with, hitherto the entire earth, including its inhabitants, will in the long run suffer the upshot.
The world environment day is highly monumental to reckon with all over the world, especially in light of the fact that recently, the environment has occupied a crucial space in the world’s political, social and economic agenda. Additionally, stake holders and communities should not be left out in environmental improvement efforts, for that is the only way nature can be kept for posterity. Several linkages and partnerships have so far been formed among nations to ensure that all the various unsustainable acts usually caused by man, that is highly detrimental to the earth is been eliminated. The issues of climate change, global warming and myriads of theirs have been raised and massive awareness programmes have been created to enlighten people, usually in the rural communities using the various communication models.
Every year, a single theme is been selected and talked upon succinctly by world leaders. The theme for the 2013 world environment day is: “Think. Eat. Save” whereby Mongolia is tasked with the responsibility of hosting the programme.
The “Think-Eat-Save is an anti food waste campaign that discourages food wastage and call for people to imbibe on the habit of reducing the rate at which food is been wasted. According to a research put forward by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), about 1.3 billion of food is being wasted on a yearly basis. Interestingly, the amount of food being wasted is equivalent to the same amount produced by the sub-Saharan African countries. More so, the FAO reported that one in every seven people sleep in extreme hunger, which culminated into about 20,000 children below the age of 5 to die daily from hunger worldwide. It is based on the above facts that the “Think-Eat-Save” theme is employed in order to take a bold step in tackling food wastage and become more aware of the environmental challenges attached to food wastage.
Above all, the main theme of the WED is to pave way for environmental sustainability among nations. Nigeria however is a country that is seriously in need of a proper, competent, and adequate environmental sustainability scheme. Well, the discovery of crude oil could be tagged as a blessing and at the same time a curse to the entire nation, for that is one of the core reasons that Nigeria is facing serious chaos and the future of our environment is jeopardised.
Crude oil is a blessing to the Nigerian elites who often sit down at home, sip their cup of tea to dictate fuel price, it’s export and import as well as where and whom to supply for; it’s also a curse to some people especially the Niger-Delta region where ever since the inception of crude oil exploration and mining, they have persistently suffered the direct consequence with little or no effort set aside to ensure an egalitarian society and a land full of equal opportunities for all its members.
Despite the long standing laws set aside during the pre-colonial, colonial, military and democracy era, these sets of laws appears to be a mere paper work and for other logistics purposes, and have not been properly implemented as it should be, as far as environmental sustainability is concerned. The problem of Acid rain and Gas flaring in the Niger-Delta region is a conspicuous reason to see that Nigeria is not really interested in providing adequate control measures to her citizens, and unless the government wakes up from their conscious slumber, so shall our biodiversity as well as habitat continue to be depleted until it is no more. Residents living close to the source of mines and refineries have been faced with respiratory problem, skin rashes, continuous noise pollution and above all damage of the agricultural potentiality of the area. Noise produced from oil companies is a serious threats to peoples’ live as it makes them feel uncomfortable and their roofing have been melting on a daily basis due to the effect of flaring. The quality of air in the Niger-Delta is not actually at its best as compared with other parts of the country.
The Environmental Rights Action (ERA), the Nigerian chapter, published a report in 2011 that says: gas flaring “releases nitrogen oxides and other substances such as benzene, toluene and xylene which are known to cause cancers”. The report added that should such constant flares continue to happen, these pollutants (benzene, xylene and toluene) can affect and subsequently damage communities 30km within the flares range. If that’s the case, then virtually many people in such a depleted area are in a serious threat and in dire need of help.
In the world today, Nigeria has the second highest gas flaring after Russia, with an estimated 11% of the world flaring. While in advanced countries, the amount of the noxious gas produced is been collected and transformed into the power sector to boost their energy level and improve power supply, Nigeria on the contrary has spent almost $16 billion from 1999-2011 in trying to generate just 6000 MGW of electricity. This made me to raise a strong question and canvass on the significant of investing into the environment sector. In 2004, the World Bank reported that the value of the gas flared in Nigeria annually is worth a whopping sum of $2billion. If the government is really focused and judicious enough, they would not have sat down on the round table, and in their offices, homes, and luxurious cars discussing about their future political ambitions, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) election, and a plethora of others while a whopping sum of $2billion, resulting from constant flaring, is being wasted without deeming it fit to make any effort that will make it form an integral part of the economy.
Although Gas flaring is considered to be illegal since 1983, the authorities concerned have not taken the bold steps, especially in the areas of policy implementation as well as a general symposium that will change the perception of people towards nature, and have not been vigorous enough to ensure the compliance of such orders. The gas produced is noxious and usually accompanied with huge hazards. It contains many volatile toxic chemicals which in turn pollutes the atmosphere and subsequently formed a reaction with some compounds (water) in the atmosphere and later comes back to the earth in the form of acid rain. The effect of acid rain needs not to be over emphasised as many biodiversities comprising of the fauna and flora have lost their lives as a result of the acidic rain.
The Koko toxic waste of 1988 is another scenario worthy of reflection. It was a period whereby ships fully- loaded with toxic waste of an Italian origin, was dumped in a small town of koko, which is in the present day Delta State. The toxic waste succeeded in the killing of many marine lives, destruction of agricultural farms alongside vegetation cover. The Babangida regime responded well to such challenge amid several calls from both local and international dignitaries, hence the Harmful Waste special criminal provisions act was enacted. The act strictly prohibits the carrying, transportation, depositing and dumping of waste of all kinds at land, air and sea levels. It is however very ironic that despite the laid down rules, waste have been dumped indiscriminately on the streets, market squares, domestic settings, and even the marine habitat have not been allowed to dwell as well.
Over the years, the Nigerian environment can be compared to a battered elephant which is staggering and falling towards the ground due to unsustainable patterns of living and obtaining various resources in the ecosystem. Man, in his quest to satisfy his unending needs, has resort to setting the forest ablaze for the purpose of field clearance and land preparation for agricultural purposes. Man has also cut down the various luxurious trees as well as special forest resources that is considered to be highly sacrosanct in the society. If in the long run such detrimental acts towards the environment have not been curbed, a time will come where resources as well as the various species in our disposal will go into extinction.
As an environmentalist, each time the Niger-Delta inhabitants protest and hold the government to ransom, I reckon and agree with them. These are set of people that live in a lagoons and thick forest areas. Their soil, alongside vegetation have been destroyed and rendered almost useless thus limiting the amount of agricultural potentials and practices. When you talk of their commercial activities, which is usually fishing, its yet to no avail as virtually all the fishes are in constant threat and many have died from the ill effect of oil spill. Oil spillage is a huge problem depleting the Niger-Delta region. Their rivers have been polluted from the effect of oil spill thereby leading to lack of portable water.
Although the entire nation have criticised and are upset with the likes of Asari Dokubo et al for the way they presented their agony as regards to the Southern part of country, they are true to a certain extent, what they ought to have done is to present their proposals and frustrations in a way that is reasonable, rather than violent.
The Environment is considered to be sacrosanct and as such, it should be treated with utmost priority. The environment is our live, and our live also depends on the environment. It is very significant to note that what is hostile to man is hostile to nature.
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