Youth delegates in Rivers State who met with Environment Minister of State, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, in Port Harcourt on Thursday, January 9, 2020 have called for an urgent solution to the lingering cases of air pollution and coastal erosion in the region.
They are also seeking relevance in activities of the Federal Ministry of Environment such as government’s 25-million-tree planting project.
At the meeting which had the Director-General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Idris Musa, in attendance, Mr. Kingsley Adindu, a youth delegate, highlighted the threats of soot pollution to the health of residents of the state, a case that he said has lingered for about six years.
He urged the minister to collaborate with the relevant agencies to bring a stop to both legal and illegal activities fueling soot pollution in the state. The rising issue of open burning was also brought up, especially of tires, which is said to have worsened the poor air quality in the state. He also wants major abattoirs in the state to find a sustainable alternative to using tires to roast cow skin.
Adindu lamented the coastal erosion menace currently ravaging some neighbourhoods in the rural areas of riverine communities and called for the government to intervene. According to him, coastal erosion leads to loss of communal lands and mangrove forests, which are a major part of the rural ecosystem and a source of livelihood to local communities.
He urged the minister to engage in more reclamation projects through her ministry and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Mr. Michael Diete-Spiff, another delegate, elaborated the important role mangroves play in carbon sequestration, adding that they (mangroves) are more effective as carbon sinks than the conventional urban vegetation.
“Therefore, they will be more efficient in our quest to reduce CO2 and mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Diete-Spiff.
Miss Dominica Una, who is also a part of the delegation, requested that, in line with the Federal Government commitment to plant 25 million trees this year, the ministry should consider massive reforestation programmes across the state, as a way of curbing the effects of climate change in the state in particular and the country at large.
“Port Harcourt is an oil and gas city with a high level of industrial emissions from various sources. So, reforestation programme is very much welcomed here. Some of the delegates, under various umbrella groups, are involved in tree planting projects across public schools in the state, while setting up environmental clubs to nurture these trees,” said Una.
She appealed to the minister for more inclusion of youths from Rivers State and the South-South Region into the federal ministry’s activities, especially during relevant Ministry of Environment and United Nations organised capacity building workshops, programmes and summits designed for youths across the country.
Responding, Ikeazor assured the delegates of her ministry’s commitment towards collaborating with the relevant agencies to bringing the illegal refining of crude – believed to be a major contributor to the soot air pollution – to an end. She charged delegates to find alternative solutions to open burning by embarking on projects such as briquettes which can be used to replace firewood and tires for cooking and roasting, even as she assured of her ministry’s support.
She commended youths engaged in tree planting but tasked them to engage with the state government to provide lands for the 25 million trees project as, according to her, the state government is the owner of lands in line with the dictates of the Land Use Act. She also assured that the delegates will be informed on progress made by the committee set up by the ministry to implement the project, of which Miss Adesuwa Obasuyi, a youth delegate based in Abuja, is a member.
She said: “There will be a series of events coming up in a few months such as the final climate change hub, which will feature youths from across the country, the COP25 review as well as the COP26 preparatory workshops – all coming up soon. A Climate Change Bill will be passed into law in a few months, which will statutorily address some of these environmental issues currently facing the country.”
The NODDRA DG, Idris Musa, assured of remediation actions on displaced illegal refining sites, through youth and host community engagement in mangrove reforestation. He also assured the delegates of his commitment, with other sister agencies such as the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), towards restoring a clean, soot-free environment in the state.