2022 WORLD WETLANDS DAY PRESS STATEMENT

Government should take steps to save wetlands from disappearing, Conserve and restore degraded wetlands

This year’s commemoration is focused on the value of the wetlands, importance of managing wetlands, significance of wetland restoration and how people can demonstrate love towards wetlands. These composite wetland-actions constitute the much-needed programmes for conservation and protection of existing wetlands.

Though the Niger Delta is the largest wetland in Africa and the fourth-largest mangrove in the world, it is one of the most degraded deltas. The rich biodiversity stock of the region, which sustained livelihoods, cultural practices, reduce floods, absorb pollutants, contribute to peace and serve as a defense mechanism, is fast disappearing due to the activities related to the oil and gas industry and careless resource use. This has further exposed the three Ramsar Wetlands of International repute in the region to significant risk of degradation, yet there are no national, regional and local efforts towards wetland management. To a large extent, limited understanding of the role and value of wetlands towards climate change reduction exacerbate the situation.

Expectedly, all inactions towards wetland management have consequences. Corporate and individual actions including but not limited to wetland reclamation for social development, mangrove and coastal degradation, would have severe consequences on

global and local populations. Artisanal oil refining (fondly called Kpofire) is a major threat to wetlands.

For instance, the recently awarded contract for the construction of Woji-Aleto-Alesa- Port Harcourt refinery road is said to cut across the creek and through the virgin forest of Aleto in Alesa community before terminating at the refinery and would see part of the creek reclaimed to allow for concrete works. This would not be the first-time nature is being sacrificed for social development. Similarly, the Eastern by-pass, and Nkporlu areas and many others, have experienced increased flooding owing to recent wetland reclamation activities. An awareness of the interrelationship between wetlands and development initiatives will contribute significantly to tackling the challenges of wetland loss in the Niger Delta. More so, any project that interfere with wetlands must be preceded by a genuine Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and enforced Environmental Management Plan!

Nigeria is a signatory to almost all necessary conventions, treaties, and protocols that support the wetlands. However, subsequent domestication and implementation continues to be a challenge. Given global efforts to rescue the earth from the effect of climate change, wetlands are to be protected not only from loss and degradation but misuse. It is possible to achieve wetlands conservation and social development simultaneously. Considering the connection between nature and human development, CEHRD insists that the achievement of climate change reduction and a number of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) will remain elusive in Nigeria as long as the integrity of life-supporting ecosystem goods and services is compromised by unregulated human activities.  It is on this premise that CEHRD urges the government, corporate organizations and citizens to deliberately conserve, create and restore wetlands for a safer earth. This would require undertaking series of actions including but not limited to:

• Consider aspects of the United Nations Environment Programme report on Ogoniland that recommended declaration of Ogoniland as a Ramsar site. Many sites in the Niger Delta are potential Ramsar Sites.

• Create marine protected areas as part of efforts towards carbon sequestration and approach to achieving intended nationally determined contributions (INDC)

• The Rivers State Government and other states in the Niger Delta to develop a wetland management policy, backed by effective policies and legislations.

• Government at all levels should deliberately invest financial, human, political capital to save wetlands from disappearing and restore those already degraded  

• Support and increase sensitization on the vital role of wetland management in rural and urban areas

• Artisanal oil refining and other illegal minings should be effectively tackled.

• Strengthen and support non-governmental organizations to develop local capacity in wetland protection and restoration

It is, therefore, pertinent for all stakeholders (the government, private sector, Civil society, citizens) to take on environmental stewardship responsibility to conserve nature.  New policies and political directions must consider nature, and its capacities to continue to support life on earth. CEHRD joins other stakeholders globally to implore all-out support for projects and programs, targeted at conserving wetlands, especially the Niger Delta, as we mark the 2022 World Wetlands Day.

Sign

Kabari Sam

Head, Environment and Conservation Unit

Further Information This year’s World Wetlands Day titled “Wetlands Action for People and Nature”. The day is used to commemorate the significance of wetlands and raise awareness on the vital role of wetlands to people and the planet. It also marks the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in Ramsar Iran. With global attention and efforts trying to reduce climate change and transit world economy to a low-carbon, wetland conservation and management will play an important role in carbon sequestration and enhanced access to ecological goods and services. Achieving this would involve individual and corporate actions that ensure that wetlands are conserved and sustainably used for human and planetary health. If the resolutions of the just concluded COP 26 would be achieved, particularly to strengthen emission reduction targets for 2030 by 2022, wetland management must top global environment agenda.

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