In the light of the importance of preserving the integrity of rivers, creeks and oceans, people interacting with and utilising our water bodies must do so with respect and place the wellbeing of the rivers and dependent communities before profit. This was the charge from the Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, in an address at the official inauguration of River Ethiope Basin institute at the Delta State University, Abraka.
The call to preserve our water bodies is a responsibility for all, Bassey stated, adding that if we fail to protect and preserve the rivers, we will continue to have situations where fishers go fishing all day and return with nothing or where coastal communities depend on imported frozen fish for nutrition.
Bassey decried the massive levels of pollution in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as rampant sea piracy in the region.
He said: “Those who pollute the rivers and water bodies should be held accountable to ensure that our rivers do not continue to be treated as dump sites.”
Bassey applauded the management of Delta State University and the leadership of River Ethiope Trust Foundation on their partnership to establish the River Ethiope Basin Institute. The Ethiope River is said to be one of the cleanest in the region and, according to sources, stands out as an example of what our water bodies were like before the arrival of the oil industry and their polluting activities.
Chief Charles Majeroh a foremost Nigerian architect and community member, during his goodwill message, noted that “the only way to preserve the River Ethiope is to ensure that human waste are not deposited into it and also ensure that there is minimal dredging of the river to enable it breath freely.”
He also urged all business owners around the River Ethiope area to be more intentional in the protection of the waterfront.
Bassey urged those in academics to listen more to community elders and help pass the knowledge learned to the younger generation.
“A drop of oil can contaminate 25 litres of water. Imagine the extent of pollution in our rivers and ocean by the millions of barrels of oil that has been dumped into them over 63 years of reckless oil activities,” he said.
On his part, the executive director of River Ethiope Trust Foundation, Urikefe Dafe, stated that the River Ethiope Basin Institute would be a platform for research into the river and also be a launchpad for the sharing of knowledge and the fight for the recognition of the rights of the river.