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May 21, 2018

Prof. Okorie raises the alarm over environmental degradation in Nigeria

Prof. Peter U. Okorie
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…Our forests, rivers under serious threat

Nigeria is typical of countries that have done relatively little to stem the tide of environmental degradation and consequent biodiversity loss, a university don has revealed. Biodiversity loss or species loss is said to occur when living members of a species are no longer found anywhere on earth, whether in captivity or in the wild.

Professor Peter U. Okorie raised the alarm while delivering the 19th Inaugural Lecture of the Imo State University Owerri recently.

In the lecture titled: “Behind the Urbanising Fringe: Stress and Struggle of Biodiversity,” Okorie said, “paradoxically, Nigeria is one of the least industrialized countries in the world and, at the same time, one of the countries with least forest cover.”

The university don disclosed that Nigeria has a forest cover of less than 6% while industrialized Germany has a forest cover of 32%. He warned that “with continued erosion of biodiversity in Nigeria, our dream of food security would remain more and more of a mirage.”

The professor of Wildlife and Fisheries elaborated on the various uses and value of biodiversity, which he broadly grouped into ecological, economic, biotechnological, socio-cultural, educational and recreational values.

“It is estimated that more than 90 percent of all species amounting to over 5 billion species that ever lived on earth have gone extinct,” he revealed.

He listed major threats to Biodiversity to include; habitat destruction through deforestation. “When trees are cut without replacement, an irreversible damage is inflicted to our planet Earth.

Blaming ignorance on cutting down of trees, Prof. Okorie said, “bushy, heavy forested villages are seen as backward while denuded villages subjected to over dose of solar radiation are perceived as developed!

“It is a humiliating paradox that countries in highly developed and land-hungry Western Europe have more forest cover than developing countries in the Third World.”

Other threats to Biodiversity, according to the professor are over-exploitation, genetic pollution, invasive species, human over population and climate change.

Professor Okorie also observed that persuasive and influential misinterpretation of some verses in the Bible has led to environmental destruction and lack of respect for nature. For example: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be faithful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:28).

He said the words multiply, subdue and dominion have been portent philosophical weapons in the hands of anti-environmentalists as the word multiply presses the reset button on all efforts at family planning while subdue and dominion are seen as injuction to recklessly use and sometimes, destroy nature once it satisfied the immediate needs of man.

Another misinterpretation of the Bible is that “everything God does will endure forever” (Eccl. 3:14), which people misunderstood to mean that natural resources are indestructible.

“The Nworie and Otamiri rivers in Owerri are highly painful examples of this shortsighted destructive exploitation,” Okorie said, warning, “When they are destroyed, they will never bounce back. He cited the case of Sahara Desert, which covers an area of 9.2 million km2 (10 times the size of Nigeria) saying it was once a heavily forested land with robust river systems.

Professor Okorie, a Knight of St. Mulumba, made the following recommendations to counter environmental degradation.

First, Nigeria should obey her own laws and obligations. He observed that Nigeria National Policy on the Environment (1989) is an outstanding document, but regretted that the Federal Environmental Protectio Agency ((FEPA), setup by law with the legal framework to prosecute defaulters is being treated like a paper tiger.

Second, there is need for aggressive public enlightenment on environmental conservation with the same passion and intensity that political parties in Nigeria hunt for votes before election.

Third, our educational system needs to revive the thoroughness with which environmental values were inculcated in school pupils through the study of “Nature Science” and reintroduction of school gardens and orchards.

Fourth, he called for State of Emergency on our River System, observing that our rivers are under relentless onslaught today. “The delicate watersheds, which serve as geomorphological/hydraulic syringes to maintain the water cycle without which the waters would dry, have been turned into housing estates, with their river beds allotted like oil blocs for sand mining (euphemistically) baptized river dredging.”



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