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Nigeria’s Islands Lost To Atlantic Ocean


THERE are strong indications that Nigeria has lost some of its Islands to the problem of erosion from the Atlantic ocean. Experts two Fridays ago, linked the loss to global warming and climate change-related problems. The lost Islands are in the Delta region, where Nigeria earns about 90 per cent of her foreign exchange revenue.

The revelation about the vanished Islands emerged at the workshop on Coastal States in Nigeria and the problem of climate change put up by the Federal Ministry of Environment’s Special Climate Change Unit with the support of Heinrich Boll Foundation, a German non governmental organization affiliated to the Green Party.

Dr. Victor Fodeke, Head/Designated National Authority, Special Climate Change Unit told The Guardian that the revelation about the loss of Islands was stunning; and a strong indication that global warming has started to take its toll on Nigeria’s coastal areas.

It was also gathered that the people who depend on the islands for their means of livelihood have relocated to other places they consider safe.

The experts at the workshop deliberated on the opportunities inherent in climate change and how to tap from the carbon credit when people reduce their green house gas emissions. They also spoke on ways of tackling poverty in the coastal areas.

It was discovered that a State like Akwa Ibom has a power project that can be used to tap from the carbon credit put up by the United Nations.

Twenty years ago, Professors Chidi Ibe and Benjamin Akpati then of the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, (NIOMR) Lagos, had warned that Nigeria was losing some of its land in coastal areas at an alarming rate.

Specifically, one of the major warnings by Prof. Ibe took place in the conference hall of the NIOMR in January 1990. On that day, the hall was full to the brim. The water of the Atlantic Ocean, which always carry out a lot of battering and weathering along the concrete structures of the Institute near the Bar Beach, surged forward as Prof. Gordian Ezekwe, the then Minister for Science and Technology listened with rapt attention to Dr. Chidi Ibe, who was delivering the ministry’s monthly seminar for 1990.

Chidi Ibe, now a professor, had focused in Global Climate Change and the Vulnerability of the Nigerian Coastal Zone to Accelerated Sea level rise: Impacts and Response Measure. Ibe who was Chief Research Oceanographers and Head, Physical and Chemical Oceanography section of NIOMR delivered a 34-page paper that rocked the foundation of the Institute.

The audience was smitten with fear that the world would face a catastrophe unless urgent actions were taken as Ibe lectured. He confirmed his fears, quoting from the Bible’s book of Genesis. It was the story of Noah and how God used flood to destroy the earth. As a prologue to the lecture, Ibe read another verse; “then Noah built an altar and sacrificed on it some of the animals and birds God had designated for that purpose. And Jehovah was pleased with the sacrifice and said to himself, I will never again curse the earth, destroying all living things, even though man’s inclination is always towards evil from his earliest youth, and even though he does such wicked things. As long as the earth remains, there will be spring time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, days and night”.

Ibe, who had led a team of experts under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to study Nigeria ‘s coastal areas, stunned the gathering with figures of high erosion rates along Nigeria ‘s over 800 kilometers coastline. After highlighting the effects of climate change on the coastal zone, some people in the audience murmured that dooms days was near.

Much of what Ibe raised 20 years ago now stare Nigeria and the global community in the face. Last week, at the Heinrich Boll Foundation, HBF sponsored workshop in Calabar, coastal states in Nigeria agreed that they are under threat of erosion in the face of accelerated sea level rise in the region if the ice in the polar region melts and pushes more water into the oceans.

In a document titled; Adaptation Strategies of Action for Nigeria prepared by HBF just before the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC in Copenhagen last December, the NGO and a crop of experts highlighted the vulnerability of coastal settlement in the threat of climate change.

Dr. Julius Okputu, the Commissioner for Environment, Cross Rivers State, told The Guardian last week, that the workshop organized by that Special Climate Change Unit, Federal Ministry of Environment with Heinrich Boll Foundation to tackle coastal erosion was a welcome development.

Okputu, the host Commissioner, said that the consequences of climate change will be felt very much in the coastal areas adding that it is the coastal communities that will suffer more from flooding when the sea level rises as a result of global warming.

The Heinrich Boll Foundation in its document on adaptation strategies of action in Nigeria quoted the works of Prof. Larry Awosika, current Chief Executive of NIOMR and Prof. Ibe stressed that Nigeria’s coastline range from the lagoon system in Western Nigeria, which has three main elements: the Badagry creek, the Lagoon covering over 700 square kilometers, to the extensive structure of coastal lands in the Niger Delta, which cover a total of 36,260 square kilometers laced by a dense network of distributaries.

The estimates of the swamplands in the Delta indicated by the two experts are over 15,000 square kilometers.

Dr Okputu said last week that Cross Rivers State has put in place an initiative to protect the swamps of Cross Rivers State the same way the forests are protected

According to G.T French, Larry Awosika, Chidi Ibe and Dr. Stefan Crammer, the former Country Director of Heinrich Boll, a major factor of vulnerability of the coastal areas is the rising sea levels with the increasing strong ocean surges capable of causing surface and underground seawater inundation.

The German Foundation gave some abatement options such as building barriers along the Coast, reinforce the bank of reservoirs, raise heights of roads and rail routes, afforestation with mangrove species, amongst others adding that the overall cost a adapting in the coastal areas, particularly in the Nigerian Delta is very high but the options are of very high priorities given the large numbers of traditional communities that are vulnerable and the strategic significance of the economic infrastructures that are threatened.

Dr. Okputu said that biotechnical intervention will help to tackle coastal erosion problem, Studies by Professor Ibe indicated that “many of the barrier Islands such as Victoria Island and Ikoyi are heavily developed and settlements situated near the coast warning that flooding of these urban areas will result in destruction of properties, loss of income and lives”.

In the past, many communities have either been lost or dislocated in the region as a result of flooding associated with storms; one of such communities is Ugborodo. Communities in the riverine areas of Ondo State are not spared from the tremulous sea.

…Cross River Has A Programme To Plant 55m Trees, Says Okputu

On the workshop on climate change and the coastal states held in Calabar

Basically, I think it’s about the support that Henrich Boll Foundation has given to the Federal Ministry of Environment to develop an intervention framework for the handling of coastal erosion matters. They called it an intervention for Southern Nigeria but I believe it should have been tagged handling erosion pattern in the South South. The workshop addressed the technical aspect, the problem and intervention mechanism.

On Cross River’s biodiversity resources…

We were in Katumba in October 2009 when we had a stakeholder’s meeting with those who are interested in our biodiversity, particularly within the sub-Saharan Africa and Africa on a wider level. The meeting opened our eyes to a lot of things really in terms of appreciating the biodiversity that are available within Africa. But Cross Rivers States, particularly, stands out because it’s a state that is holding more than 50 percent of the tropical high forest in Nigeria. That is one. Also, Cross River State is one of the 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world.

We have 13 Forests Reserves apart from the swamp estuaries. We also have swamp estuaries. Our mangrove swamp is the remaining mangrove swamp in the whole of West Africa. This has been constituted into a Forest Reserve in terms of our carbon credit potential (to combat climate change) that is huge. We are looking at the standing forest. We are also looking at ways of carrying out an expansion of what we have. Our ecological endowment can attract a lot of global attention and funds.

Also, the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened our eyes to a lot of opportunities last December in Denmark . Between December 7 and 18 when the conference took place, Cross Rivers State made its presence felt in Denmark . The delegation to the conference was led by the governor, Senator Liyel Imoke.

Some peoplehave said that Copenhagen was a great conspiracy against fossil fuel but the developed nations are beginning to look for alternatives to the use of fossil fuel.

The opportunities that conference gave are so many. In the area of renewable energy, that’s an option here in the state. Our endowment provides us with great opportunities to tap from the carbon credit.

How does this work?

When you discuss low carbon economy in Nigeria , of course Cross Rivers State is where to begin. Our forest reserves and biodiversity somehow provide the necessary carbon sink to tackle the problem of green house gas emissions implicated in global warming just as the gas that is flared in the Niger State Delta. This is very important. It’s the Cross Rivers State forest and the state biodiversity that support the livelihood around this area. The consequences of climate change will be felt very much in the coastal areas. The consequences are obvious in the coastal zones. People in the coastal areas will suffer more from flooding when the sea level rises as a result of global warming.

That’s why an international NGO like the Heinrich Boll Foundation thought well about a workshop on erosion problems in the coastal states.

Apart from the fact that we are the cleanest, we are the greenest state in Nigeria . We have to move beyond what we are doing now towards the creation of a carbon resource cente. The center will look at carbon research and capacity building in the area of attracting opportunities in our biodiversity sector.

We should also look at the management of our water shed as well so that we don’t lose what we have. Again, we must look at how we manage our fresh water. How do we ensure that there is no salt water? We have so much fresh water reserve that we must preserve. What are the other opportunities?

An integrated waste management system is important. We have done so much in this effort, beyond our forestry and conservation efforts, beyond our biodiversity potentials. We believe we must put up permanent structures that will sustain our economy. That takes us to environmental governance, our politics and our laws. We are expecting that people will come and invest in these sectors.

How prepared are you for such investors?

We are preparing to receive such investors. We have a programme to plant 55 million trees. How much support are we going to get? If China is developing 40 million hectares in 10 years, Cross Rivers State must develop a million hectares in 10 years and the programme has just begun.

The workshop put in place by Heinrich Boll Foundation in support of coastal erosion management particularly as it has to do with the impact of climate change is a welcome development. At that workshop participants learnt that we must begin to favour biotechnical intervention in our erosion control measures.

Our contribution to that workshop from our perspective is to tackle erosion. Concrete intervention must be de-emphasized in favour of bio technical intervention.

That means we must educate our people to plant more trees. If an area is forested, of course, you will have no erosion.

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