When the Niger Delta Biodiversity Conservation programme was launched by the UNDP in 2014, having Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers as principal states in the Niger Delta to enjoy the programme, little did many believe that the programme would earnestly help in protecting the region’s flora and fauna that were almost heading to extinction. ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE writes that surprisingly, the programme with first phase to end in 2019, has recorded achievement in the protection of some revered forests, wildlife and hallowed grooves in the Niger Delta, inter alia
It was a ceremony of two days in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, where nature protection policymakers gathered to employ methods that could save biological diversity of the Niger Delta region in Nigeria.
It was in 2014, and they were worried that the Niger Delta with abundant natural resources was being threatened by human activities. They were deeply troubled about the continuous destruction of the Niger Delta biodiversity resources by oil pollution.
They did not want this wetland believed to be among the known wetlands around the world and the largest delta in Africa, be a thing of history.
They did not want the Niger Delta widely known as the hub of Nigeria’s economy, with crude oil estimated to be in the ratio of 2.2 million barrels being explored every day in the midst of ravaging poverty among the natives, join other submerged nations in the past.
Help coming to save Niger Delta mangroves
Since the 50s, the Niger Delta’s land and sea have been immensely polluted by multinational oil companies, whose stock in trade is to make profit, not earnestly practicing international oil exploration standard, experts have said.
Against this backdrop, several species like flora and fauna and farm crops are hampered by immeasurable oil spills that flow into arable mass land and seas across the Niger Delta, a region where natives are predominantly known as fishermen and women and also, farmers.
Worried by the ugly havoc to biodiversity in the Niger Delta, there was the introduction of biodiversity management initiative budgeted to cost about $5.7 million aimed at safeguarding the Niger Delta environment by handling the region’s oil and gas (O & G) sector increase policies and operations.
Checks revealed that this project was to put a strong hold on government policies to imbibe and propagate the biodiversity action planning apparatuses for serious long-term biodiversity management and capitalisation on a Niger Delta Biodiversity Trust.
At the event in Port Harcourt, representative of the then Environment Minister (Laurentia Mallam), Halima Mohammed who’s doubling as an Assistant Director in the Environment Ministry and a GEF Desk Officer, was ecstatic with the project, adding that it would help in doing business but in a novel way in the Niger Delta.
In Mohammed’s words, “Government, being one of the major players in the industry, aligns itself with the stated goals and objectives. If government, the O & G industry and local communities adopt and pilot new biodiversity action planning tools for proactive biodiversity mainstreaming in the Niger Delta, a major shift would have been achieved for the benefit of biodiversity and its sustainable utilisation.”
The Niger Delta Biodiversity Conservation project was put-into-operation by Federal Ministry of Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), but funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Further, Mohammed said, “An engagement mechanism is very important to ensuring a platform for communication among all players for the benefit of the biodiversity of the region. The innovative funding mechanism which the project recommends is commendable. As a major stakeholder, we have already ensured our buy-in.
“However, it is recognised that the peculiar nature of the delta demands a regular review and update of strategies. We salute the UNDP for the catalytic role it is playing in the sustainable management of the situation.”
Dr. Matthew Dore, as the National Coordinator of the Niger Delta Biodiversity Project, hinted that the geographic roadmap of the project was in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, and Rivers, regarded as chief States in the Niger Delta. The landmass was given at 46,420 km2.
Dore whispered that the project would bring the aimed result at improving biodiversity management to these areas overtly and covertly, adding, “The physical footprint of the O&G company assets within this area is admitted by the industry to be 600 km2, which is considered the project’s initial ‘direct landscape mainstreaming target’.”
Walking its talk
After the programme was initiated, in 2017, Dore divulged that there were researches put in place from 2014 to the year in quote, on different issues with key point to reforest the Niger Delta and crusade to the natives to protect their endangered species especially in this era of climate change.
It was made known that over 54,000 trees of assorted varieties have been planted across the four choice states.
“Esit Eket, and Odio in Akwa-Ibom state; Kwana, Magho, Afara Etche and Alesa Eleme in Rivers State; Ogbogolo Samgbe, Oluasiri, Zarama, Ayama, Adigbe and Biseni in Bayelsa, were beneficiaries of the tree planting programme,” said Dr. Dore while listing communities that have benefitted from the tree planting programme of the UNDP.
“While in Delta state, planting and scoping were carried out at Umuaja, profiling of Abigborodo community in Delta North, engagement of the people of Abigborodo in mangrove tree planting, while a study on the use of raffia palm was carried out in the community,” Dore added.
However, investigation revealed that trees were planted in Patani, Udipbori in Delta state by UNDP, while the continued existence of the West African dwarf crocodile in Emu community in Ndokra West Local Government area was preserved. This was even as communities in the Niger Delta were also taught on the renovation of water hyacinth to generate organic manure.
“Niger Delta is a complex ecosystem,” said Dore. “The problems of poverty, hunger and deprivations in the region have made it difficult for people to conserve their natural resources.”
- Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- SOURCE: OoReporters
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