The documentary by Ken Saro Wiwa Junior the late son of the environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa Nowhere to run highlights the environmental issues plaguing Nigeria.
Being from Rivers State I have experienced first-hand the effects of environmental pollution from the activities of the oil companies. From as young as 7 years, I already knew what a gas flare was because there was one looming in the distance from the balcony of my father’s house in Buguma.
I’ve seen thriving fishing villages where I used to go sightseeing as a child devastated and have now become a shadow of what they once were. In recent times, in addition to gas flaring, there have been illegal refineries refining crude oil in Rivers State and this has resulted in a lot of soot released into the atmosphere. Respiratory related ailments are on the rise and people are slowly dying.
A recent study that compared the lung function of primary school children in Port Harcourt with children in other states indicated that the children in Port Harcourt had a lower lung function capacity than the children from other states.
The following are the effects of our demands on the environment in Nigeria:
Desertification is the encroaching of the desert into the Sahel savannah. Drought is one of the causes and deforestation is another major cause. Desertification has caused the land to be uninhabitable in certain communities in the North resulting in the people of the community moving from their homes elsewhere. This move has caused land-related conflicts in the North. Most of the grazing land has been affected by drought and desertification thus making pastoral farmers (herdsmen)move further down South. These pastoral farmers in search of food for their cows, move into farmland, leading to communal clashes.
Shrinking of Lake Chad
Lake Chad has shrunk in area from 22,902 km in 1963 to 1,034 km in 2000. Water is being drained from the lake to irrigate crops. However, the recharge rate of the lake is not as quick as drainage. It has resulted in a significant impact on the livelihood of the people in the community. The people in the affected communities move to the major city Maiduguri and on getting there are not able to get jobs. They now turn to Islamic clerics who provide financial facilities for them and in return, they become followers of their doctrine and become indoctrinated into radical Islamic groups.
Oil and Gas
Nigeria wastes a lot of gas on gas flaring. The amount of gas flared can be used to generate power for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. In monetary value, the waste is up to $2billion of natural gas. Gas flaring causes acid rain which damages crops and property. It also causes an assortment of diseases such as cancer, skin and respiratory issues.
Oil spills due to sabotage of oil pipelines have devasted numerous local communities in the Niger Delta. It has left the farmers and fishermen/women in these communities without a source of livelihood. Militancy is the result of the huge neglect of the communities.
Increasing Sea Levels
Scientists have indicated that an increase of 1m of sea level could result in the loss of 75% of the Niger Delta. The destruction of the mangrove trees in the Niger Delta has resulted in sea encroachment displacing communities. The mangroves act as a natural barrier to the sea.
Commercial and illegal logging is thriving leading to deforestation and when money is involved, no one is thinking about sustainability. Forests are the greatest reverses of CO2 as they convert CO2 to oxygen.
Erosion and Flooding
Increased urbanisation has caused the soil to become impermeable increasing the volume of water flowing when it rains. With the blocked drainages, the water has nowhere to go further increasing the turbulence and this has resulted in massive erosion and floods.
Despite all this, hope is not lost. The effects of climate change may still be reversible. However, certain changes can be made. They include:
Harnessing the wind and the sun by developing wind and solar farms that can generate power for communities. Stop gas flaring and convert the gas to much-needed power.
Stop/Reduce the rate of Deforestation
One of the main reasons for deforestation is wood for fuel for commercial and domestic activities. Developing and making available more efficient stoves and ovens for cooking and baking will reduce the amount of firewood needed. Thus reducing deforestation.
Improved Farming Methods
Improve farming methods to sustainable methods of farming.
Preservation of the Rainforest
The rainforest in Nigeria is a huge natural resource for the country. Trees convert CO2 into O2 and it is the home for a variety of animals that are not found anywhere else.