Irikefe Dafe, head of both the River Ethiope Trust Foundation (RETFON) as well as Foundation for the Conservation of Nigerian Rivers (FCNR), laments the state of the nations’ waterways, even as he calls on the authorities to declare a state of emergency to tackle the situation
The World Rivers Day takes place on September 25, 2016. It is a global celebration of the world’s waterways, observed every last Sunday in September. Established in 2005, it highlights the many values of rivers and strives to increase public awareness while encouraging the improved stewardship of rivers around the world. Rivers in every country face an array of threats, and World Rivers Day promotes the active involvement of citizens to ensure the health of rivers in the years ahead.
Nigeria is one of the countries in the world with the worst rivers degradation conditions and no adequate deliberate efforts to reverse the trend. Everyday, the country loses this precious resource to pollution due to reckless industrial development, urban development and climate change, among others.
Today, no river in Nigeria meets the water qualities standard stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) either for swimming, fishing and drinking purpose. In every community today in Nigeria, the rivers that used to be a source of drinking water, swimming and other aquatic activities have seized to play these vital roles to mankind.
We want all Nigerians to be aware that we will not progress as a nation as long as we continue to treat our rivers the way we are doing today. You will agree with me that the state of any river one sees in any community is a practical reflection of the mindset of the people and activities they carry out on a daily basis within a river catchment and watershed.
I tend to ask people to show me their community river and I will tell them the sort of people that they are. Today in Nigeria, it is only River Ethiope in Delta State that has a Foundation established to promote its wise use and conservation as compared to USA that has all her water bodies under protection.
Nigeria’s current effort towards economic progress, aspiration and gains may be frustrated in the near future if a state of emergency is not declared on Nigeria rivers now.
Lately, the Foundation for the Conservation of Nigerian Rivers (FCNR) has been leading in creating awareness about conservation of the nation’s rivers. It is currently working on deepening its educational endeavors with partnerships aimed at creating platforms that will facilitate the development of human capacities that are capable of designing and implementing integrated approaches to challenges associated with Nigerian societies and their environmental impacts on whole-of-water cycle, on a sustainable basis.
This has resulted in the establishment of the Integrated Centre for Biodiversity, Watershed and Climate Change in the Niger Delta University in Bayelsa State. Several similar schemes are in different stages of implementation, and it is hoped that Nigeria will soon be a credible partner in the world’s efforts at preserving rivers.