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Experts task FG, firms on ESI maps for quick response to spills

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Experts and stakeholders in the Niger Delta region have asked the Federal Government to ensure that the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) developed for marine and coastal areas are well distributed for quick response to oil spillages.

Prof. Kingdom Abam of the Rivers State University, Advancement and Lineages Centre, Port Harcourt and lead Consultant for NIMASA, Alabo George, gave the charge at the weekend during the official presentation of draft copies of the ESI maps.

While reviewing the maps, Abam said they explained resources in coastal communities, stressing that whenever spills occur, areas where they occur usually become vulnerable, but noted that the maps serve as a tool for rapid response to mitigate the impact of spills.

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“The maps contain management of first respondents, which means, they show exactly where to go in the event of spills, their possible causes and best ways to handle situations.

“The ESI maps help to determine the exact point of spills, communities likely to be affected and so it makes things easier. It will also help government with availability of tools to ensure rapid response to spills and minimise their impacts,” he stated.

He, therefore, urged government to ensure adequate distribution of the maps to stakeholders to achieve the desired result, stressing that the main aim was to ensure rapid response to spills.

“As long as NIMASA is involved, government is involved, government has to play leadership role, because the more the information is circulated, the better oil spills are managed,” he said.

He lamented that the earlier ESI maps were not properly circulated, stressing that only the oil and gas industry had access to them, which adversely affected its intended impacts.

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Abam, however, admonished those whose activities impact on the coastal marine areas to get the maps, maintaining that they would help to mitigate the impact of their activities.

Also speaking, George explained that the ESI maps present results of environmental baseline survey of the Nigerian Shoreline.

He said the study took the vulnerability, biological and socio-economical characteristics of each coastal environmental features into consideration, which he noted would help to highlight risks of the resources and how to mitigate them.

George said, if the ESI maps are well circulated and their directives adhered to, it would protect the resources for future generations, adding: “Government need to pay more attention to scientists and researchers, because it’s time to mobilise the people and stakeholders in the environment. This should be well circulated so that people will begin to understand its importance.”

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