A conservationist in Africa’s biggest economy is canvassing for stronger legislation and enforcement of policy actions to protect the environment against degradation, especially in the Niger Delta region.
Olivia Chinonso Ihemeson, a barrister and conservationist, said a modern conservation policy would help correct the mess that is currently affecting the environment.
She lamented the poor awareness of the consequences of environmental degradation by activities such as dumping of refuse in the nearby stream/drainage, bush burning, indiscriminate and emissions from exhaust/explosives.
Others include; the destructive effects of using harmful herbicides in farming, discriminating falling of trees with no plans for replacement, radiation from living too close to a communication mast, and uniformed reclamation of wetlands by individuals, amongst others.
Referencing the soot pollution crisis in Port Harcourt, she stated that this reflects governance failure and constitutes an intractable problem to all levels of government represented in the region.
“Citizens believe that the federal government has failed to make meaningful efforts aimed at honestly addressing the issues that made the people of the region resort to armed struggle to fight their cause,” she said
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“The government appeared to be more concerned with the uninterrupted flow of royalties paid by oil companies than with the general wellbeing of the people who bore the burden of the soot pollution.”
Ihemeson stated that decisive action to reduce exposure to environmental pollution would be required to attain a sustainable environment.
She also emphasized the need for the government to make informed decisions amid limited resources, change the way land and seas are exploited to prevent biodiversity, and develop home-grown models suitable for our limited budget to tackle waste disposal.
“I encourage the private sector to engage actively to cover the gap created by inadequate government involvement in environmental protection,” she added.
She explained that she was inspired to commence her advocacy owing to the severe pollution that affected drinking water in the Niger Delta region in 2020. Also, the impact of annual flooding in most urban cities across the country inspired her.
“On my part, I have been at the forefront of environmental advocacies by offering pro bono legal opinions to interest groups/partners in environmental development,” she said.
”I also join the discussions and attend stakeholder meetings where models are developed, and ongoing projects appraised to check conformity with environmental policies.”
“All these think tanks evolve into working papers and presentations by non-governmental actors. I also do seminars and talks to create awareness on environmental problems.”