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CLIMATE CHANGE: Need to protect the environment by experts

Ecological restoration aims to recreate, initiate, or accelerate the recovery of an ecosystem that has been disturbed. Common disturbances include damming rivers, intense grazing, floods, and fires. How does all this impact climate change? Isioma Madike, reports

The Acting United States (U.S.) Consul- General to Nigeria, Brandon Hudspeth, marked this year’s Environmental Day with advice to plant a tree and save the environment. He did not only speak but participated in an actual tree-planting event with students of St. Savior’s School, Ebute Metta, Lagos, to commemorate the day.

Hudspeth was joined by the General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Dr. Dolapo Fasawe, and Assistant Director at the Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Folasade Adeyoju. The event was organised by members of the Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI) under the auspices of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association, with the support of a public diplomacy grant of the U.S. Consulate-General.

Hudspeth noted that the tree planting activity underscores the U.S. government’s commitment to supporting initiatives that raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment. He expressed optimism that the involvement of the students in the tree planting activity would shape their perspective about environmental conservation and restoration of the ecosystem. He also acknowledged the positive impact of work performed by the YALI alumni to build linkages between different communities and government institutions in Nigeria to promote environmental conservation efforts.

He said: “We are thrilled that our YALI alumni are partnering with St. Savior’s School for today’s tree planting activity. Children have the potential to be powerful agents of change. By focusing on children of school age, giving them tools and knowledge to change behaviors, future generations will be better prepared to care for the environment. “Our main goal is to implement a campaign that will involve community members, local organisations, and government institutions to inspire and educate Nigerians on the importance of a clean environment for human health and a strong economy.”

Fasawe, on her own part, lauded the school children and their teachers for their commitment towards protecting the environment. According to her, tree planting plays an essential role in mitigating the impact of climate change. “Planting trees is one of the most important things we can do to contribute to the health of the planet,” she noted. Head Teacher, St. Savior’s School, Ebute Metta, Mrs. Lawrencia Izedonmwen, also expressed the commitment of the school to promote environmental education and responsibility by creating awareness and empowering schoolchildren in its host community. Meanwhile, the Lagos State government has called on citizens to join the state in the fight against environmental degradation and pollution.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu made the call at another event to mark the World Environment Day with the theme: ‘Ecosystem Restoration,’ at the setback of the Abraham Adesanya Estate on the Lekki-Epe Expressway. He said it would be difficult for Lagos to close her borders to economic migrants, hence the need for all hands to be on deck to ensure sustainable use of natural resources. According to him, the ecosystem could be restored by growing more diverse crops and trees. He also said that the state had initiated a four-year greenery plan for the Lekki-Epe axis to restore the abandoned setbacks on the corridor.

The governor, who was represented by his Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Tunji Bello, said the plan started with the establishment of an urban forest park by the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) on the Lekki-Epe Expressway.

The step, he said, could rebuild carbon stores in soil and make them more fertile so that the growing population could be fed. According to him, humans could help rebound shrub lands and grasslands by clearing woody vegetation and reseeding native grasses, lost plants and animals could be reintroduced and protected. He reiterated the need for residents to ensure a safe, resilient and sustainable Lagos by responding to the call for action that would last a decade in restoring the ecosystem and joining the rest of the world to combat the unsustainable consumption of natural resources.

While declaring the park open for public use, the commissioner emphasised the need for massive acceleration of global ecosystem restoration efforts to fight the climate crisis, enhance food security, provide clean water and protect the earth’s biodiversity. Speaking on the park, the General Manager of LASPARK, Mrs. Adetoun Popoola, stated that the space, measuring approximately 17,256 square meters, was previously characterised by heavy unauthorised trading and artisanal activities, vagrants, unlawful waste disposal and clogging of the drainage that captured rain water runoff from the expressway. She noted that the space also served as a hideout for those who engage in nefarious activities and was a security risk to motorists, pedestrians and the immediate community, saying that the State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources dislodged the illegal occupants from the space thereafter handing over to LASPARK for development, which birthed the ‘urban forest.’

Popoola said portions of the setback were allocated to organisations, which indicated interest to partner with LASPARK by adopting and developing the spaces at “no cost to the state government.” Sanwo-Olu, who restated the need for everyone to come together and address environmental issues through multifarious approaches of human intervention and sustained advocacy, said he was not alone on this.

Other environmental experts have also stressed the need for concerted efforts to be deployed in mitigating the negative impacts of Climate Change on the environment with the adoption of a climate-friendly lifestyle. He said: “The world is at a point where climate change is no longer a theoretical threat, but a very real phenomenon playing out before our very eyes. It has therefore become imperative that we address the pertinent issue of climate change because of its pivotal impact on key economic areas like agriculture, health, sustainable socio-economic development, as well as enduring peace and security in our society.

“On World Environmental Day, the United Nations Secretary-General reiterated that the world faces an environmental emergency, which may lead to deprivation of food, water and other necessary resources needed to survive. The onus is on all of us to collaboratively do everything necessary to save our environment, mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and to make our planet more pristine and liveable. “Lagos is very vulnerable to the effects of climate change –we sit on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, with a land mass so small and prone to flooding, as a result of being mostly occupied by water. Circumstances have therefore compelled us to be proactive.”

He expressed joy that “Lagos is the first state in Nigeria to develop a climate action plan – ‘Lagos Climate Action Plan: Second Five-year Plan 2020- 2025′, to help achieve an emission-neutral city by 2050. We are now much more adept, as a government, at incorporating climate- friendly thinking into everything we do. Our goal now is to extend this awareness to the entire populace, to get Lagosians to imbibe the culture of climate awareness in their homes, workplaces and lifestyles. “We have a rich pipeline of projects being undertaken to address climate change and fast-track the attainment of our zero-carbon goal, across transportation, healthcare, energy, agriculture and waste management.

Composting, recycling, Waste-to-Energy are just a few of the strategies we are focusing on to improve the quality of waste management. “In the energy sector, there are significant opportunities to roll out off-grid solar systems for public schools, hospitals and other government offices and facilities alike. We can also incentivise individual homes to move from fossil fuel generators to solar systems. Multiple seemingly-modest interventions successfully implemented across a wide variety of sectors can and will add up to substantial positive impact in terms of climate change adaptation and mitigation.” For Bello, climate change is about increased risk of extreme events, natural disasters, and of changes in weather patterns. “As our understanding of the climate grows, so does our understanding of what those risks might mean for our people,” he said.

He added: “Studies have shown that the year 2050 will be significant for the world, especially the developing country, if something drastic and urgent is not done. It has been postulated that about 215 million urban poor in 495 developing cities will be vulnerable to extreme heat; million others will be exposed to other climate risks including sea level rise, flooding and water scarcity.” Also, Dr. Caradee Wright, South African Medical Research Council, University of Pretoria, South Africa, has harped on the imperative for action to protect human health from climate change threats and risks. He warned of grave danger ahead of developing countries if urgent steps were not taken by the people to combat climate change risks. Wright, quoting World Health Organisation (WHO), 2015, stated: “Climate change can be expected to cause an additional 250, 000 deaths every year by 2030: 38, 000 heat exposure in elderly people, 48, 000 due to diarrhoea,60, 000 due to malaria, 95, 000 due to childhood under nutrition.

“Without effective responses, climate change will compromise water quality and quantity: contributing to a doubling of people living in water-stressed basins by 2050, increasing exposure to coastal flooding by a factor of 10 and land area in extreme drought by a factor of 10-30,” among others. Other concerned individuals have equally urged Nigerians to protect the environment by keeping it clean. A team of volunteers led by Seidougha Eyimiegha said they are joining other Nigerians and organisations to make a difference with regard to the need to care for the environment. Eyimiegha stated that the group would embark on advocacy activities to get the public to imbibe the tenets and principles under the Clean Up starting from Obalende Under-bridge, Lagos.

He said that the projects are designed to raise awareness on environmental issues such as global warming, marine pollution, sustainable consumption and wildlife crime. He said: “Should it not be our collective concern to ensure we take proper care of our environment; or is it the responsibility of only a few? There is an urgent need now more than ever before to take responsibility. Irresponsible disposal of consumed products is gradually becoming a part of our urban lifestyle here in Lagos and there is an urgent need to take responsibility for our collective injustice to the environment we live in. “For this reason, we will be having a sanitation exercise on Saturday 5, June, 2021 from 8:00am to 12:00noon under Obalende Bridge in Lagos. We would also be speaking to commuters to responsibly dispose of sachets and plastic cans of products they consume. Disposable baskets will be provided for Danfo buses as well.”

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