Saturday, September 25, 2021

Working Towards Plastic Pollution-Free Nigeria

Environment Day
The minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood (third from right) and the director-general of Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Prof. Shola Adepoju, flanked by dignitaries during the commissioning of projects by the institute in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Man’s interaction with nature, coupled with the challenges and impacts of climate change have grossly exacerbated the deleterious state of the environment. Even the terrestrial and marine ecosystems are not spared. It is instructive that the world population especially Africa, has continued to increase geometrically, leading to an unprecedented competition for the available meagre resources for survival.

Other endemic factors such as poverty, food shortage, high unemployment rate, and recently COVID-19 pandemic have significantly worsened the ecosystem, resulting in weak resilience and adaptation and thereby denying us of its invaluable services.

To tackle issues of climate change and related challenges arising from human activities, world governments are making deliberate efforts to develop policies to mitigate the negative effect of man’s activities in the environment.

In recognition of the importance of environment to man, the United Nations in 1972 established the World Environment Day (WED) celebrated annually on June 5, to highlight the importance of the environment and the need to protect and preserve it from unsustainable human practices that harm the environment such as marine pollution, human over-population, global warming amongst others.

The 2021 WED themed ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ saw the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration which has many forms such as growing trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts.

Joining the world to celebrate the day, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Environment organised various activities to commemorate the day by highlighting environmental challenges in the nation and government’s interventions to mitigate the negative effects of climate change in the country.

Speaking at an event organised by the environment ministry in conjunction with the state ministry of environment and sanitation in Osogbo, Osun State, at the weekend, the Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood, stressed that the country had an alarming deforestation rate of four per cent, declaring it unacceptable and a source of concern for the government as it contributes to a high rate of food insecurity.

The minister added that human interaction with the environment coupled with impacts of climate change have further exerted pressure on the environment, including the marine ecosystem.

He said government, worried by the situation, had embarked on nature-based programmes and projects to control the trend as well as formulate policies and legislation aimed at stemming the tide.

“The Federal Government, being conscious of the alarming rate of deforestation standing at between 3.7 – 4.0 per cent, has continued to engage locally and internationally, in addition to the formulation of enabling policies and legislations aimed to bring the situation under control.

“The Federal Government has also commenced execution of nature-based programmes and projects to address the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss in view of their multiple benefits which include among others, climate amelioration, improved ecosystem services, enhanced water security, enhanced food security (especially through agroforestry, improved soil organic carbon and water retention, improved productivity and resilience), disaster risk reduction, and improved nature-based jobs and livelihoods,” he said.

Mahmood further said government was working to ensure that the environment was efficiently protected for the sake of humanity.

“We are redressing the various anomalies through the on-going national afforestation programme across all the ecological zones of the country including the establishment of Great Green Wall across the frontline states with other associated programmes such as sensitization and awareness creation, promotion of dryland agricultural technology, provision of water for irrigation and domestic uses, development of grazing resources, promotion of alternative and sustainable sources of energy, promotion of alternative means of livelihoods as well as creation of enabling environment for the development of agro-based industries,” he added.

In another event to mark the day, the minister led a member of the senate committee on environment, the commissioner for environment, Ekiti State, and the registrar, Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) to plant a tree to commemorate the day in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The state visit also saw the commissioning of multiple projects executed by an agency under the ministry, the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN).

The projects commissioned are the Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar Bio-Medical Development Laboratory Building, named after the minister; the Amina J. Mohammed Wildlife and Ecotourism Building, the Elizabeth Ehi-Ebewele Biodiversity Linkage Centre, the Accounts and Audit Building, the Computer Lab Building and a fire-fighting truck. He also met with industrial training students in FRIN.

In a similar development, addressing youths during a youth consultation webinar on plastic pollution with the theme ‘Youth response to plastic pollution’ organised by the ministry as part of activities to mark the day, the Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor described plastic pollution as one of the most pressing global environmental problems facing mankind, affecting land and marine environment at present. She said it was also threatening ocean health, food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and was contributing to climate change.

According to her, about 1.5 million tonnes of plastic wastes are generated every year and less than 10 per cent is recycled.

She, however, pointed out that innate opportunities of wealth creation and economic development existed and could be explored by youths in the nation’s large volume of solid wastes, particularly plastic wastes subsector, adding government had created an enabling environment to harness the opportunities.

“To assist the youth to effectively respond to the above challenge, the Federal Ministry of Environment has created an enabling environment to harness the opportunities in plastic waste management in Nigeria through the development of a national policy on solid waste management that supports the principle of circular economy…; formulation of a national policy on plastic waste management which also addresses the issue of plastic life cycle management; implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme; development of a waste to wealth entrepreneurship programme for the empowerment of the most vulnerable group especially youth and women.

“Implementation of a community-based waste management programme that encourages the involvement of local communities in modern waste management practices such as waste sorting, segregation, composting and recycling; revision of our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to include the waste sector; and development of regulations to ensure that our national development agenda is not at variance with the carrying capacity of our fragile environment,” she said.

Ikeazor expressed strong conviction that Nigeria will achieve sound management of plastic wastes and achieve its dreams of plastic pollution free environment sooner than expected if the people, especially the youths work together with everyone contributing his or her quota.

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