The Association for Environmental Impact Assessment of Nigeria (AEIAN) says that the 50.15Km dual carriage Ring Road project proposed by the Rivers State Governor will undermine environmental sustainability.
Prof Ijeoma Vincent-Akpu, President of the association, made this known to the media on Friday, July 21, 2023.
Vincent-Akpu said that the Ring Road project, which would span six Local Government Areas with six flyovers and one river crossing bridge to be completed within 36 months, would lead to the loss of biodiversity and erode socio-cultural heritage within Rivers State communities.
“The Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, says his administration will be constructing the biggest single project that will be undertaken by any state in Nigeria.
“The construction of a 50.15km dual carriage Ring Road that spans six Local Government Areas in Rivers State with six flyovers and one river crossing bridge.
“This is a laudable project that will reshape our socio-economic life and natural habitat,” Vincent-Akpu said.
“There are comments on why spend so much money or why site the project in Port Harcourt city; the main focus should be that the environment will be adversely impacted, biodiversity will be lost, social and cultural heritage will be eroded.
“This project will affect all the eight sustainability standards of International Finance Corporation (IFC) especially on community, land resettlement, biodiversity, Indigenous people and cultural heritage and upset some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Vincent-Akpu said.
The professor noted that the biggest threat to biodiversity has been the way humans reshape natural habitats.
According to her, in the ranking of biodiversity loss, the main direct and biggest threat to biodiversity is the land use change, followed by overexploitation before others like climate change, pollution and invasive alien species.
She said that for any project or development to be sustainable, there was need to look at its impact on the economy, human and the environment.
“There is need to carry out comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that will encompass the study of the unique biodiversity of the Niger Delta.
“Let’s take a lesson from the construction of the Bayelsa Airport, how we lost unique biodiversity such as the Niger Delta Red Colobus (Piliocolobus epieni).
“EIA by law should enable informed decision on developmental project of this magnitude.
“However, in the case of the ring road project in Rivers State, decision has been taken and concluded on the engineering and structural design, route to pass, duration for construction and over 75 per cent of project money paid.
“If the River State Government will consider commissioning the EIA process now, it will likely be for mapping of the people for compensation.
“This is not what EIA process is all about. EIA is not a waste of money and does not cause unnecessary delay but a tool for sustainable development globally,” Vincent-Akpu said.
She said that the EIA process identifies impacts; assesses the positive and negative impacts; mitigates the negative ones and enhances the positive ones.
She added that EIA prepares the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) that would guide the construction prior to the commencement of the project.
The president said that the process tends to preserve the environment and enhances the health and socioeconomic wellbeing of the people.
She said that AEIAN, since 2010, had been creating awareness and advocating that EIA should be carried out for major projects that adversely affect the environment and the people.
She said that the EIA Act Cap E12, LFN 2004 makes EIA mandatory for all major public and private projects in Nigeria, adding that EIA should be carried out by professionals.
She listed the position of the association in the Ring Road project as follows:
- EIA should have been carried out before final decision is made; input from the EIA process should have been considered during engineering designs and route selection phases.
- Project implementation could be delayed for adequate assessment and studies to be carried out.
- Integration of the outcome of the study with the projects should be executed holistically considering the rich hotspots and biodiversity, indigenous people, cultural heritage, livelihoods, and communities.
“Though this project is not funded by World Bank, Environmental and Social Performance Standards of the IFC could provide a guidance on how to manage the associated impacts of the Ring Road construction in a more sustainable way,” Vincent-Akpu said.