June 5, 2020
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY, 2020: NDWIRED CENTRE CALLS FOR #ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOR POLOBUBO /OPUAMA#
As the global family commemorates World Environment Day 2020, today with the theme, ‘BIODIVERSITY’, the Niger Delta Women International Resource, Environment & Development Centre, NDWIRED CENTRE joins all of Earth’s peoples to employ the opportunity offered by this commemorative event to celebrate with all men, women and children. This year’s focus is very pertinent. The more varied the earth’s fauna and flora are, the more confident we are in the earth’s ability to play its life-sustaining role. But the earth with its awesome powers to provide the soil, seas and air, the various ecosystems in which life is birthed and thrives, cannot play this primary role as sustainer and nurturer of life, without conscious human beings taking action.
In the past decades we realize how in our effort to carry out the very human demands to develop and modernize, provide creature comforts and improve the quality of life of our teeming populations, we destroy the earth. It is agreed among those who work to protect the earth and the life it bears, that more destruction of the earth’s soil, forests, air, rivers, streams and oceans, has taken place in the last 100 years, than in the preceding 1000 years. All of us, concerned humanity faced with the challenges of climate change and mindless biodiversity loss from the damage we inflict on the earth’s oceans, coral reefs, air and other fragile ecosystems, must take a moment today and in the weeks to come, to pause, conceive and activate creative ways to bring a halt to the frightening destruction of ecosystems and the biodiversity they hold.
Globally, a frightening number of animals and plants have disappeared from the earth due to such deleterious practices as deforestation borne on the burgeoning urbanization demand. The impact of climate change has as well, led to disappearing coral reefs which are the nurseries of marine life.
On a more positive note, the past five decades have witnessed greater awareness about the threats to the earth and biodiversity loss, thanks to the work of scientists, environmental pressure groups and media which has led to the development and signing of protocols for action. We observe sadly however, that many countries, both in the developed economies and developing countries, have not taken the huge steps required for effective action.
In Africa, the pressures of poor governance and the lack of political will to commit resources to support communities who face the greatest threats to their livelihood and biodiversity is a recurring refrain.
In areas of substantial extractive industry activity including the oil bearing Niger Delta of Nigeria, decades of oil spill on land and water, seismic operations, canal construction to deepen rivers, caused by the multinational oil companies through their operations, have led to the destruction of vast acreages of rain forest and mangrove which are the nurseries of marine life. These combine to sketch a frightening picture of horror captured even on satellite. The destruction of massive stretches of water and mangroves through the activity of well-armed bands of operators of illegal artisanal refineries, compound the burdens faced by ordinary farmers and fisher folk in the places where these take place.
In Polobubo/Opuama, a group of Ijaw communities in Delta State, trapped in the impacts of the construction of a canal along the Opuekeba river to the Atlantic Ocean in the 1970s, to facilitate the operations of Chevron Nigeria Limited (then known as Gulf Oil) one of the major oil companies operating in Nigeria, led to the introduction of saline water into and altering the fresh water ecosystem that supports life in the surrounding communities. The damage to the biodiversity there, is massive and ongoing 50 years after. The poverty this has brought to thousands of impacted community members especially women and young children who depend on the land and river, is beyond belief and demands urgent redress.
As the world takes stock this day to focus on the environment and life, NDWIRED CENTRE, calls on the Nigerian Government to take responsibility to protect these women, men and children, being driven to hunger and starvation in the affected communities and bring an end to the destruction of the resources, land, water, air and the species of life on which they depend for sustenance . The growing presence of children with yellowing hair, an indication of severe malnutrition among very poor families, is a reflection of irresponsible governance, and underlines the gulf between the communities and the government, which should shame all concerned. The degradation of the Polobubo/ Opuama environment and the failure to hold the companies responsible for this destruction of fragile, valuable ecosystems, must be halted immediately and legal redress processes activated. The loss of Polobubo/Opuama’s fresh water sources, lush forests of hard woods including agara, azonia and fauna such as crocodiles, alligators, manatees and antelopes represents environmental war against a people.
As we mark this day, NDWIRED CENTRE pledges in the spirit of biodiversity protection to deepen our work with all stakeholders including government at all levels, to restore the Polobubo/Opuama environment, its health and biodiversity, the people that depend on this, to the center piece of governance henceforth.