Courtesy of the Benin City, Edo State-based Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), representatives of communities that are being impacted by the Superhighway Project of the Cross Rivers State Government brainstormed for three days last week (from Thursday to Saturday) on challenges concerning the controversial scheme.
The meeting built the capacity of community stakeholders on issues related to their forests as well as the overall impact of 10km right-of-way to be acquired on either side of the proposed road. Threats to their biodiversity rich forest and its resources, the environment and livelihoods they depend on for daily survival were of great concern at the gathering, which drew participants from Okokori and Edondon in Obubra Local Government area; Old Ekuri and New Ekuri from Akamkpa Local government area; and civil society groups and community based organisations.
At the close of the interactive community dialogue and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) training, participants and community stakeholders from Edondon, Okokori, Old and New Ekuri resolved thus:
- Need good roads but do not want their cultural heritage destroyed.
- Insist on active engagement of communities in the EIA process with adequate compensation paid where necessary.
- Will write to Government to register their concerns relating to the proposed super highway project.
- Call on NGOs and International agencies support to build a stronger alliance against the super highway project especially with regard to threats to forests.
- Community’s free prior informed consent (FPIC) must be sought in all projects before implementation.
- Protest and resist any unsustainable forest management practices in the forest rich region.
- Will reduce every activity that promotes deforestation.
- Promote forest conservation and regeneration of indigenous trees in degraded areas.
- Minimise poaching, unregulated hunting and stop to illegal wild life trade.
- Reject use of forest lands for large scale plantations.
- Campaign against water pollution and the indiscriminate use of chemicals.
- Strengthen the Community Forest Watch for effective community forest monitoring.
- Form a community health monitoring group to ensure sustainable forest management practices.
- Help to protect, preserve and conserve their forest which provides them with social, economic, spiritual benefits.
Besides HOMEF, other CSOs involved in the initiative include Rural Action for Green Environment (RAGE), Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE), Peace Point Action (PPA), Lokiaka Development Centre (LDC), Rainforest Research and Development Centre (RRDC) and NGO Coalition on Environment (NGOCE).