Lagos State Government, on Wednesday, stressed its commitment to scale up the level of education amongst the people on the importance of wetlands, biodiversity conservation to humanity.
Speaking at a programme on Wetland Advocacy held at the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, the Commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello emphasised the need to upscale awareness within communities close to wetlands.
He added that the programme would create an opportunity for riverine communities to interact with the government and experts on wetland matters and address growing challenges of wetlands encroachment in the State.
The Commissioner, who spoke through the Special Adviser, Drainage and Water Resources, Engr. Joe Igbokwe, said the challenges facing wetlands in the State include an increase in human population and accommodation, thus putting pressure on land demand which is a very scarce resource in the State
Bello said the wetlands accommodate a variety of land and water-dwelling plants and animals, which are well known to have rich and distinct ecosystems, adding that as a direct result of the rich ecosystems, wetlands are especially important to humanity and the world.
“This ecosystem is dynamic and known to sustain enormous life and provide valuable services which are economically, socially and ecologically important for human survival. The services they provide ranges from the supply of food, medicine, building materials and fuel, flood control, water purification, transportation and tourism opportunities amongst others”, he informed.
Noting that several of the wetlands in the State at Iju, Ejigbo, Badagry, Ikorodu, Itoikin/Orugbo and many more are being encroached upon and reclaimed for estate development without due consideration for environmental guidelines, Bello emphasised the need to preserve the ecological values for humanity and their survival.
His words: “Some of these wetlands are within or along River/Gorge/ Drainage systems and heavily vegetated with trees thus acting as a carbon sink and water Retention/Collector for stormwater and run-offs”.
He said that the theme for the Advocacy/Awareness Campaign Programme – “We Are Part of the Solution for Nature”, was adopted from this year’s International World Biodiversity Day to involve and commit members of various communities, being the main stakeholders, to protect wetlands within their environment.
The Commissioner revealed that the State Government is in the process of reviewing a draft wetland policy that will protect wetlands in the State and continue to enforce other relevant environmental laws.
He, therefore, implored all residents to desist from the acts of using refuse to reclaim wetlands or dump waste in drainage channels, adding that it is a joint effort of the people and the government that can assure a safer, cleaner and a flood-free environment in Lagos.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Permanent Secretary, Office of Environmental Services, Mrs. Aderonke Odeneye said the Ministry is developing a sector policy on Wetland and Biodiversity Management to ensure balanced development, where the course of nature will adequately be mainstreamed into the development policy and planning.
“It is however important, as communities and as a people, to do more to preserve nature and protect our wetlands from further encroachment as is recently experienced”, she said.
Odeneye revealed that the Ministry has also embarked on identification and categorisation of the wetlands in the State on a consultancy basis, as a follow-up to update identification done in 2009.
The Permanent Secretary, Office of Drainage Services, Engr. Olalekan Shodeinde, stated that wetlands are natural habitations provided by God and whose value cannot be replaced by money.
He said wetlands retain water during the rainy season to prevent flood, adding that they are part of lands that are green and never go dry throughout the year.
In his lecture, the Guest Lecturer from the Department of Zoology and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Science, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Abiodun Denloye, insisted that wetlands must be properly preserved for human survival.
He said a portion of land that retains water up to six metres throughout the year qualifies to be a wetland, adding that such lands help to purify wastewater and return it clean to the underground water depots.
“Wetlands have economic values, as they can be used for water transportation, tourism and create employment opportunities for people. 74 communities have interconnection with wetlands across the State and this programme is, therefore, not in futility but an action in the right direction”, he said.
Prof. Denloye, however, called for actions to be taken at both the local and State government levels to collaborate with research and educational institutions to sustain reclamation of some wetlands in Lagos State.
PIX: Director, Conservation and Ecology Office of Environmental Services, Mr. Sheriff Savage; Permanent Secretary Office of Environmental Services, Mrs. Aderonke Odeneye; her counterpart in the Office of Drainage and Water Resources, Engr. Lekan Shodeinde and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Drainage and Water Resources, Engr. Joe Igbokwe during the Advocacy Awareness Campaign on Wetlands for Lagos West Senatorial District Held on Wednesday, 2nd of June, 2021 at Makanjuola Hall, Lagos State University, Ojo.