Devastating effects of deforestation and overcrowding
Sir: Experts in the Environment have recently predicted that most major cities across Africa will be experiencing landslide and other ecological disaster in quick successions as a result of overcrowding and deforestation. As sad as this may sound, governments at various levels are yet to come up with aggressive plans on environmental sustainability.
Man-induced ecological disasters are rampant occurrences in most cities in Nigeria where human lives and property are wasted almost on a daily basis, especially during rainy season. Lack of adequate planning and observance of extant environmental laws have continued to exacerbate effects of global warming resulting in drastic depletion of agro-forestry lands thus exposing many to flood, landslide, desert encroachment, soil and wind erosion.
Also, rampant gravitation of the critical mass of young school leavers towards townships in search of greener pastures and to escape deprivation associated with rustic livelihoods in the villages tends to over-populate those areas. And recent insurgency in some parts of the North has forced many to be internally displaced thus seeking refuge in other towns. According to UN Habitat, urbanization has severely festered poverty as the growth of cities inadvertently increases the population of people living in slums due to shortage of decent accommodation or inability to afford it. Conurbation is gradually becoming a more visible phenomenon as the world is urbanizing at a fast pace and it will not be long before a greater population in developing nations will be living in towns and cities and this will naturally throw up problems of food in-security and other development emergencies.
With population explosion, many citizens are exposed to sub-human living condition with accumulative lack of some basic necessities like food, water and sanitation. Pollutions and epidemics are endemic in an overcrowded environment and they pose serious health hazard to such inhabitants.
Recently, Lagos state was rated by the Economic Intelligent Unit (EIU) as the second worst habitable city coming only after Damascus in the war-torn Syria. The report which corroborated an earlier one released by The Economist of London also enumerated worst livable conditions indices to include deficit in social stability, health-care, environment, education and infrastructure.
On deforestation, for instance, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), in 2005 had reported that Nigeria has the highest deforestation rate at about 55 percent of its primary forest lost at 4.5 percent annually. This was attributed to bush burning, illegal logging, the use of wood as fuel for cooking, agricultural activities and oil-spillage, which have destroyed both aquatic faunal and floral habitats.
It is pertinent at this point to state that the decline in vegetation and fertile land accounts for frequent clashes involving pastoral and crop farmers, particularly in the North Central region of the country.
Deforestation also exposes the environment to the un-mitigating effects of green house gases, which is the major causative factor of global warming.
Government needs to evolve a multi-sectoral approach in tackling these challenges through partnership with non-governmental organizations and Civil Societies by embarking on an aggressive tree planting and awareness campaigns.
The National Environmental Standard and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and Ministry of Environment should as a matter of urgency step up their mandates and develop a more pragmatic and preemptive measures to protect and safeguard the environment from menacing ecology-related hazard threatening many states of the country.
This piece was written by Itaobong Offiong Etim