Stakeholders in environment protection should not be deceived by loud noise made across the country to mark this year’s World Environment Day.
In reality, the country is barking more than it is biting concerning how to curtail the worsening degradation of the environment, while the yearly official commemoration of the day has become a most ineffective routine. To stop environmental destruction requires greater commitments in policy formulation and implementation, and the initiatives deserve to be keyed into by all levels of government.
As expected, a number of states observed World Environmental Day by staging some talk shows or organizing tree-planting activities. While these are part of supporting the environment and life, they are deficient for lack of necessary follow-up to their logical end. Therefore, the rivers are drying up, pools of water are being polluted, the desert is fast encroaching, the forests are thinning, oil exploitation is terminating agricultural and fishing activities and the stench of pollution and misuse of the environment is gripping everywhere.
This year’s World Environment Day with the theme, ‘Only One Earth,’ provides the platform to increase awareness and rally stakeholders, including governments, cities, businesses, organisations and individuals to step up actions aimed at protecting and restoring the planet.
Sadly, the environment is a largely neglected issue in Nigeria. Nevertheless in Edo State, the government revved up a campaign to restore the ecosystem and preserve the environment by embarking on tree planting in Benin metropolis and other locations, including Oredo Girls Secondary School in Benin City. This involves the Edo Ministry of Environment and Sustainability which Commissioner Jonathan Lawani, urged all stakeholders in the state to support the government’s efforts at engendering environmental sustainability, ensuring a healthier and cleaner state for all citizens.
His words are instructive: “There is no other earth except the one protected by you and l. We all know the exchange between plants and animals in terms of carbon dioxide and oxygen without which we would not be alive. We need a good environment for our trees which will in turn help us to synchronize the carbon dioxide and give us oxygen to live. It is our collective responsibility to protect our environment and earth.”
In Lagos, the US Consulate and other groups celebrated the Day with school children while the Lagos State Government seeks action against environmental degradation and pollution.
The Acting United States (U.S.) Consul General, Brandon Hudspeth participated in a tree-planting event with students of St. Savior’s School, Ebute Metta, Lagos, along with the General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA). “Planting trees is one of the most important things we can do to contribute to the health of the planet,” Dr Fasawe noted.
In Cross River State, experts expressed fear of climate crisis as loggers deplete the forests. Stakeholders warned that Logging in the state constitutes a threat to sustainable forest management as over 91,000 tons of timber leave the state every year due to illegal logging. Environmental experts are worried that with the reckless logging in the forests, in the next 10 years, the state may not have any forests again.
Essentially, World Environment Day is merely used by government officials to deliver beautiful keynote speeches and rehearse the same environmental problems plaguing the country without providing any solution. The country has been unable to showcase any environmental breakthrough for her ceremonies. Deforestation has assumed an alarming dimension and negated the annual tree planting exercises to contain the menace. Fuel wood and timber merchants continue to wreak havoc on the now fragile vegetal cover nationwide without restraint.
There has been no curtailment of the massive annual flooding that yearly swallows lives and properties in different parts of the country. What has been done to contain the endemic gully erosion ravaging parts of the southern states; or the fast encroaching desertification that has virtually eaten up the entire northern landscape from the fringes of the Sahara Desert in the north down to the Niger-Benue trough?
What about the unbridled wildlife poaching and its flourishing bush meat industry patronised mainly by the elite? Nigeria’s membership in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is meaningless, as no biodiversity is protected in the country.
Virtually, all the country’s zoos in Ibadan, Jos, Enugu, Maiduguri, Owerri, etc, that flourished in the 70s and 80s have gone into extinction. The hapless animals were either starved to death or exposed to being poached. The catalogue of woes plaguing the environment is numerous and it includes the virtually extinct Lake Chad that has become the subject of international diplomatic discussion by the government and multilateral agencies.
It is time governments at all levels embark on concrete actions to stem these endemic problems, beyond the fanfare of marking the World Environment Day every year. The country should aim, for instance, to celebrate one success story of an environmental problem solved on the occasion of this important global event. Otherwise, it amounts to sheer hypocrisy that every year, on June 5, state and federal government authorities file out to capital cities to plant some tree seedlings that are immediately forgotten as soon as everybody deserts the venue.
Being lucky to be outside the natural regions plagued by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunamis that ravage other climes, Nigeria should avoid man-made disasters occasioned by bad governance, greed and avarice. The devastation of the country’s trees and forests by greedy wood merchants in defiance of environmental conservation laws should be consciously halted.