As the world marks this year’s Earth Day on Friday 22 April, government at all levels as well as private individuals and organisations have been urged to vigorously pursue tree-planting initiatives so as to check the myriad of environmental challenges.
Concerned environmental experts made the call in separate interviews while commenting on the annual event which is marked on April 22 as coordinated by the Earth Day Network to draw global attention to the protection of the environment.
The 2016 Mother Earth Day , which is expected to be celebrated in 193 countries, is significant as it is coming shortly after the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, which produced a widely accepted agreement.
This year’s celebration is also unique as the landmark Paris Agreement is scheduled to be signed by the United States, China, and 150 other countries.
The ceremony satisfies a key requirement for the coming into force of the historic climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations that attended the conference in Paris.
An environmentalist, Prof. Olukayode Oladipo, explains the essence of the celebration as it applies to Nigeria.
He said: “The Mother Earth Day is meant to make people be aware of the need to take care of the earth without which we will all be gone. It is a day when more than one billion people celebrate the earth and a lot of activities are normally planned by each country, individuals, corporations or organisations.
“Some decide to clean up areas that have been polluted. All efforts are to make sure that the earth upon which all of us depend, is protected so that it can protect us. Every Nigeria should plant at least a tree. That is one way that we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is causing the type of excessive heat.”
The theme for the celebration, “Tree for life”, seeks to get governments across the world, public and private sectors, non-governmental organisations as well as public-spirited individuals, to intensify tree-planting efforts, in order to meet the goal of 7.8 billion trees within the next five years, when the Mother Earth Day would clock 50 years.
A cross-section of government officials and environmental advocates wants all stakeholders not only to embark on aggressive tree-planting but also to preserve the nation’s remaining forest reserves because, according to them, trees help to clean up the atmosphere and sustain life.
“If 155 Nigerians should each plant a tree, we can be sure that our goal of creating a green environment free of pollution, erosion and other natural disasters will be achieved. Trees help the planet by taking carbon dioxide into animal food and give out oxygen for humans to breath. Planting tree is the best,” added Prof. Oladipo.
To tackle desertification, which is reported to be affecting about 33 per cent of Nigeria’s land mass, as well as to key into global afforestation programmes, including the Billion Tree Campaign by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2006, the authorities have launched various tree-planting initiatives in the country.
These include the “Eko Green Dream Initiative” aimed at planting 6,000 trees in three Local Government Areas in Lagos State and “The plant a million trees 2020” by the African Centre for Environmental Protection.
Nigeria is also pursuing the Great Green Wall (GGW) programme that is creating a wall of trees along the desert front-line states in the North to check further encroachment of the Sahara Desert down South and recover land already destroyed by the phenomenon.
Desk Officer for the GGW in Kano State, Alhaji Garba Sale, who is a tree-planting campaigner, explains the benefits of the programme for the country.
“The wall itself is a plantation of trees that is 7,500 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, which runs across the sub-Saharan Africa. It enters the country from Kebbi State passing through 11 desert-prone states. It is a programme that has the socio-economic benefit for the country, the environment and the general public,” he said.
Many Nigerians believe that the idea of tree-planting has not yielded the desired result which is buttressed by the fact that the nation has not been able to replace its trees the way they were at independence decades ago.
According to them, tree-planting has been sabotaged by factors such as discontinuity in government policies, the ignorance on the part of the people on the importance of trees, as well as the heavy use of land for physical development at the expense of the provision of green areas.
The loss of tree covers has been blamed for most of the nation’s environmental problems, such as global warming, erosion, increase in the number of diseases and the reduction of life expectancy which currently stands at about 40 in the country.
An environmentalist, Desmond Majekodunmi, says that in order to protect future generations, the way to go is “tree-planting”.
His words: “What we need now is to plant trees, a lot of trees which will absorb the carbon dioxide and keep us alive. The whole essence of human existence is under threat by climate change due to too much carbon dioxide we introduced by yourselves. We have to come to the realisation that this is a serious issue and we have to avoid the crisis from growing worse. That is the best legacy we can leave behind for the coming generation.”
Humanity derives immense benefits from trees such as absorbing excess carbon dioxide, which destroys the atmosphere and causes global warming. Trees also make the air clean for people to breathe while also helping communities to achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability by providing them with food, energy and income.
By Innocent Onoh