Depletion of Nigeria’s mangrove forest raises concern
Alarmed by industrial and urbanisation threats to sustainable productivity of the mangrove forests, eminent environmentalists have urged authorities to enforce laws and policies that would protect them from extinction.
Mangrove forests are typical group of salt tolerant that occupy the inter-tidal zone of sheltered coasts around estuaries and lagoons.
They serve various socio-economic and ecological functions in coastal communities providing breeding space for fish species, periwinkles, and other non-wood products that aids rural livelihoods as well as functions as the biggest sequester of carbon-dioxide for biodiversity survival.
The experts spoke at the “First International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystem in Nigeria”, organised by Mangrove-expo and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in Lagos.
Expressing their concerns, the Executive Director, Eco-Restoration Foundation, Prince David Omaghomi said the threats to mangrove ecosystem has observed, come through the natural and anthropogenic sources which include; legal and illegal oil and gas operations, the impact of climate change, infestation by barnacles and the drying up of the mangrove trees.
Other sources, he noted include; grazing by cattle, urban development, reclamation for agriculture and aquaculture and tree felling for wood products.
According to him, the current method of destroying illegal refineries by the Nigerian security forces such as the army, the civil defense, and the police, was adversely destroying the mangrove ecosystem and the environment at large.
He further said that such method is the greatest destruction to the mangrove forest anyway in the world and advised oil operators to embark on aggressive conservation, restoration and protection of the mangrove.
“Nigerians must develop empathy for sustainable use of mangrove ecosystem for tourism, traditional medicine, natural products and culture.
We have the largest mangrove forest in Africa and the third largest in the world from Badagry to Calabar covering a total area of 10,000kilometres square along the coast.
The vegetation band 15 to 45km wide parallel to the coast.
The forest were earlier considered to be least disturbed of the forest zones of the country but that is no more the situation today.
The activities of oil exploration companies have led to degradation of the mangrove forest”, he stated.
Also speaking, NCF Director General, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano who was represented by Joseph Onoja warned that if we allow the present generation to destroy the mangrove, the society has a lot lose.
He said the foundation was intensifying campaign to protect the environment and the importantly preventing coastal erosion, preserving marine life and ensuring that the local delicacies sourced from the mangroves are sustained.
The programme which was attended by students, executive members of NCF including, the Chairman of Lekki Urban Forest and Animal Sanctuary Initiative (LUFASI), Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi.
It also featured book preview/exhibition on ”Man and the Mangrove: An environmental awakening” by the author; Mr. Jerry Chidi and a Professor of Arts, History and Theory from the University of Port Harcourt; Frank Ugiomoh.