Saturday, 22 June 2013

‘Our environment, our Life’

By Alex Abutu

Last week, the Minister of Environment, Mrs Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia presented her score card to the nation.The score card which was a summary of activities undertaken by the ministry in the last two years, analysed strategies adopted by government in addressing the mirage of environmental challenges confronting the country.
According to her, most of the challenges facing the nations’ environmental sector were human induced as “we have failed to carter for the environment. The environment is about our health, our wellbeing and until we get the environment right no sector including agriculture, health nor education will be able to deliver on its mandates and create jobs for Nigerians.”
“In 2012 we experienced one of the most devastating floods so far, yes it about climate change as we can see in other countries of the world but our situation was aggravated by our inability to respect and protect our environment. Government constructed drainages for free flow of water but we have turned these drainages into refuse dump thereby blocking the free flow of water but remember that water will always find its way,” she said. Continue...

The refusal of Nigerians to abide by the environmental impact assessment (EIA) law according to her remained one of the major challenges the ministry had faced in the last two years. “EIA is needed to ensure that all development projects do not have negative consequences on the environment.”
Some of the feats recorded by the ministry in the years under review according to the minister include the arrest and prosecution of Vessel MV Marivia from the United Kingdom for bringing hazardous waste into Tin Can Inland Port, Lagos, a $500,000 bail bond was deposited by the vessel at the Federal High Court in Lagos, process 351 EIAs, development of seven new environmental guidelines and standards, developed and gazetted two new regulations on oil spill management that seek severe penalty for those responsible for oil spill, development of national regulations on control of alien and invasive species, motor vehicle and miscellaneous assembly, pulp and paper, wood products and quarrying and blasting operations.
The ministry also in the last two years activated the national oil spill contingency plan, developed the national strategic action plan for the Great Green Wall project, and approved the national climate change policy.
The minister noted that the Federal Ministry of Environment which has the mandate to ensure that the nation develops in harmony with her environment was undertaken measures to ensure environmental protection, natural resources conservation and sustainable development.
She said that in the last two years the ministry had restored degraded sites across the nation to increasing the nation’s vegetation cover.
The ministry according to her has provided an effective and efficient administrative framework for environmental management as well as articulation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, guidelines and standards.
Sixty four erosion and flood control projects are currently being executed nationwide and at various stages of completion, she added.
Some of the projects include three Presidential Initiative on Coastal and River Bank Protection on Flood in Asa River (Kwara State) and Sagbama & Otuoke (Bayelsa State), 15 erosion and flood control projects  at various stages of completion in the South East Geo-Political Zone with three (3) already completed.
The completed 3 sites are Nekede gully erosion control in Owerri West LGA, Imo State, St. Kizito Sec. School Umuchima in South LGA, Imo State and Okpolo Ire Ojoto Erosion Site in Anambra State.
As part of measure instituted to forestall loses from the predicted 2013 flood, the minister said that 307 Web-based Flood Early Warning Systems (FEWS) were installed Nationwide to alert communities.
Among the installations 15 were Community-based Flood Early Warning Systems (FEWS) in Ondo, Niger, Cross River, Imo, Anambra, Lagos, Oyo,
Osun, Ogun, Nasarawa, Rivers, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Enugu State while 4 stand alone Automated FEWS facilities were also installed along Alamutu  River and Eruwa River  in Ogun – Osun River Basin, Owena  Bojutire River and Ose River  in Benin – Owena River Basin.
On desertification, the minister said that efforts have advanced on the great green wall project which is expected to be implemented in eleven frontline States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno.
She said  that already 43 LGAs in the frontline states would be covered by the shelterbelt that would begin from Kebbi State to Borno State, a distance of 1,500 km and 15 km wide. It would also involve the rehabilitation of a 225,000ha of lands, establishment of green wall or community sensitization and mobilization, promotion of alternative sources of energy, promotion of alternative means of livelihoods,
promotion of dryland agricultural technology and the provision of water and other social infrastructure to participating communities.
She was confident the project would take-off this year with the release of resources by the federal government and sensitization, awareness and community mobilization, Environmental Impact Assessment/Baseline Studies and procurement of assorted seedlings for planting of 11,282ha of land in 8 Frontline States.
Under the project 400 forest guards, 68 extension officers and 24 forest supervisors would be trained.
On environmental health, Mailafia said that the ministry has taken steps to restore dignity to Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) whose responsibilities it was to detect, prevent and control all factors that can affect the environment and health in negative ways.
According to WHO standards, One EHO is to serve 8,000 people but the situation in Nigeria is that presently, there are over 7,000 registered EHOs with the ratio of 1 to 23,857 people.
To meet the required standard, Nigeria needs additional 13,875 EHOs.
The minister therefore called on states and local governments to be actively involved in the service of professional EHOs.
On oil spills and the Zamfara lead poison saga, the minister said that the ministry had supervised the remediation of 430 lead poisoned homes (compounds) in Zamfara State while 4 hectares of lead poisoned industrial sites in Bagega Village Zamfara State was also remediated.
The ministry according to her also supervised clean-up activities in 497 oil spill sites nationwide.
But the minister maintained that to sustain the achievements recorded by the ministry there was an urgent need for Nigerians to change their attitude towards the environment as currently there was a low level of intervention in environmental management by states, poor compliance with existing policies and regulations on environmental issues especially at the state level.
She concluded the presentation by emphasising the fact that our environment is our life and that it is important for all Nigerians to be conscious of their environment and do whatever it takes to ensure a sustainable environment for those yet unborn.

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