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Tree planting beyond the routine

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Against the backdrop of the climate change phenomenon threatening fragile ecosystems around the world, the tree planting initiative being undertaken by the Lagos State Government is instructive, as a reminder of failings of government in the past to address the threat posed by wanton exploitation of the environment. Ordinarily, the Lagos initiative is commendable; but does it represent a sincere desire to solve a looming problem, or is it merely a rhetorical ritual to fulfill all righteousness? The fact remains, however, that the environment which supports all living things needs to be preserved to sustain life.

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Announcing that the Lagos State Government has planted 7.6 million trees in the last 10 years, the General Manager, Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency, Mrs. Adetoun Popoola, at this year’s tree planting day, said 50,000 additional trees would be planted this year. Between January and June 2021, 4,000 trees were planted, while in the last two years of the current administration, 24,000 trees were planted. The gesture deserves support by Lagosians given that a lot still needs to be done.

The benefits of tree planting are immense for the entire country. Unfortunately over the years, tree planting exercises have become a hollow routine, embarked upon by various states and Federal Government more as a political venture, than as a means of redressing the continual degradation of the environment. Governments all over the country make a huge annual ceremony of tree planting with nothing to show as harvest. Indeed, the rate of tree felling is way above the rate of tree planting. This is especially so in Lagos State where the pressure for accommodation is high compared with available land mass.

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After many years of tree planting jamborees, a serious government, either at the federal or state level, should have come up with legislations and enforcement modes to prevent arbitrary felling of trees without the slightest consideration for the ecology. There is need to educate the people that the increasing heat being experienced in many parts of the country is a direct result of deforestation and reckless felling of trees. In better organised climes, trees form an essential part of urban settlement and no one fells a tree without permission by the authorities, which permission can only be granted for very visible public interest.

The Lagos State government should come up with a more elaborate plan to involve the people and ensure that the planted trees are nurtured to maturity. It is one thing to plant the trees, yet it is another thing to ensure that they survive. Importantly, other states should begin, if they have not been doing so, to formulate a policy of protecting trees and greenery across their states, for the immense benefits accruing from such policies.

Mrs. Popoola was right in her assessment that: “Lagos, the most populous city in Africa, is also one of the most vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding. We are not immune to global warming and the various other climatic challenges. A computation of the Climate Change Vulnerability Index identified Lagos as one of the top 10 global cities and only city in Africa with ‘high risk’ from climate change. The importance of trees to the environment cannot be overstated. Trees give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife.”

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Tree planting should be closely monitored. Where are the trees that were planted 10 years ago? Is there any record of their performance? Did they wither as soon as they were planted? Otherwise, there should be big trees across the environment where they were planted. What kinds of trees were planted? Were they native or exotic species? Were they ordinary or economic trees?

Obviously, many of the trees were planted where they were easily destroyed or prevented from growing. Many areas have not been covered. And people still cut tress indiscriminately without attracting sanctions. The country needs to take the issue of environmental conservation more seriously and desist from self-inflicted disasters occasioned by bad governance, greed and avarice. Trees and forests in the country are devastated not by hurricanes and tornadoes but by people. The Nigerian wild life is continually assaulted, poached and devoured as bush meat without regard to the ideals of conservation.

The importance of trees cannot be overemphasised, as they are critical in combating global warming. They absorb the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, replenish the air with oxygen and also contribute immensely to the aesthetics of the environment. Trees also check erosion and stem the tide of windstorm by serving as wind breakers.

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Furthermore, trees are brilliant cleansers. They remove other pollutants through the stomata in the leaf surface. Trees act as carbon sink, storing the gas in its branches, trunk, leaves etc, instead of leaving the gas to become free floating and further polluting the atmosphere. By this process, trees directly regulate the greenhouse effect and counteract global warming. Trees also serve the purpose of overall air quality enhancer. They provide natural habitats for biodiversity and reduce the temperature by providing shade.

Thus, a tree is not just a beautiful work of nature standing amongst the many phenomenal picturesque settings of the environment; it is a powerful and vital tool for human survival. Science has proven that without trees manufacturing oxygen, life on earth would have been impossible. It is therefore imperative that the public are continually enlightened on the importance of trees. There is an urgent need for sustained action at making tree planting an essential part of daily living instead of being an annual ritual only remembered when the occasion demands.

It is also important that the citizenry is fully involved in the environmental sustainability agenda of states and the Federal Government.

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