The environmental disaster bedeviling Anambra and the need to address it was the crux of the matter at a town-hall meeting held in celebration of the 2023 World Earth Day (WED) in Awka, the state capital, on Saturday, April 22.
The theme of the celebration in the state is “Clean, Green and Sustainable Anambra: Taking Ownership – A Community Participation Approach”, while the global theme is “Invest In Our Planet”.
Gov. Chukwuma Soludo, while declaring the meeting open, said it was unfortunate that Anambra which was the second least state behind Lagos was losing land to erosion while Lagos was expanding into the ocean by reclamation.
Soludo, represented by Dr Onyekachukwu Ibezim, his deputy, said it was for his concern that he made environment reclamation through massive waste evacuation, drainage desilting and urban renewal his first priority upon assumption of office.
He said the environment was so dirty that decayed human corpses were discovered at the dumpsites during the evacuation exercise.
He called on residents of Anambra to become more friendly with the environment by adopting the preventive measures recommended by experts and discussants.
In his lecture, Prof. Leo Muoghalu, Dean, Faculty of Environmental Science, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, said human activities had continued to impact more negatively on the environment as population increases.
Muoghalu who spoke on “Flood menace in Anambra. Causes, prevention and remediation: A call for Community participation”, said storms and flood were responsible for about 79 per cent erosion.
He blamed the destruction of about a combined 13,461 hectares of forest reserves, including the Akpaka forest in Onitsha, for being responsible for the erosion challenge in Anambra.
The expert identified other factors of environmental degradation as urbanisation, lack of effective laws, nature of geological physical expression, nature of soil, blocking of drainage channels with solid waste and construction on flood plains.
According to him, other factors include poverty, heavy rainfall and gully erosion and lack of consideration for the environment in construction and urban planning.
Muoghalu said loss of soil could be checked by enactment of strong environmental law, reforestation, increased awareness and community participation and implementation of disaster management cycle by the state emergency management agency.
In his opening remark, Dr Felix Odimegwu, the state Commissioner for Environment, appreciated stakeholders who responded to the call for a roundtable on clean, green and sustainable environment for Anambra.
Odimegwu said the WED was a platform to further send the message of the desire of the Soludo administration to evolve a healthy and sustainable environment, noting that the governor had personally shown example through desilting and tree-planting activities.
He said the meeting was to raise the awareness of community-based groups and encourage them to take ownership of the measures.
He said Anambra was fastly losing its arable land due to gully erosion which was active on about 1,000 sites which he blamed on the nature of the soil.
He said the vulnerability of the Anambra environment had made it imperative to save and protect it through a proactive and sustainable management system.
“We must try to avoid the erosion of our top soil to stormwater, we have to plant trees, build catchments to harvest rainwater and ensure our drainages are free” he said.
Other speakers at the event were Prof. Peter Nnabude, a Soil and Water conservation expert, and Mr Adeleye Odebunmi, Managing Director of Lagos State Waste Management Agency, who spoke on “Safe and Sustainable Waste Management In Our Community – The Best Practice”.
There was a hand over of economic trees to community-based groups as an advocacy for the government’s tree planting policy.
World Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first marked in 1970.
By Chimezie Anaso