Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, has assured all Lagosins of the state government’s preparedness for the coming heavy rains after the August break, writes Gboyega Akinsanmi
The last decade has been tough for the world population mostly due to what scientists have ascribed to the effect of greenhouse emissions. The world has suffered a wide range of natural disasters: oceans have overflowed their banks and flooded the world’s mega cities in the United Kingdom, Japan and Thailand among others. And the world over, such disasters have led to many deaths, mass displacement and public installations terribly affected.
Likewise, the effect of greenhouse does not exclude Lagos State. Okun Alfa, for instance, a Lagos waterfront community has been almost wiped out. In 2011, the megacity witnessed a torrential downpour that hit the entire state for about 17-hours, thereby causing loss of lives, destruction of private properties and damage to public installations. This season too, the state was rattled by rainstorms in the first quarter and a 10-hour downpour last month.
Each of these disasters always creates an impression that the present world is vulnerable to natural disasters. Last week’s Atlantic Ocean surge which overflowed its banks leveled the Kuramo Beach, Victoria Island, sacked the entire community. No fewer than 17 people were feared dead at its wake.
But Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, said this much at the 2012 edition of tree-planting campaign, which the state government held in all its senatorial districts. Bello acknowledged the realities of the fast-changing climate and weather and the grave dangers those realities placed on human lives, economic activities and strategic installations.
Much like Bello, Governor Babatunde Fashola, vented his concerns about the coming dooms of climate change if nothing “is done now to restore the green environment and save humanity. This is why he said the 2012 tree-planting campaign theme: “Plant a Tree for a better Climate” was apt to create the needed awareness to save lives because climate change “is real and the world is also changing. Hence the people cannot, but change with it”.
However, the commissioner strongly holds a view that the grim realities of global warming could as well be prevented, though places a huge responsibility on every resident: “Plant a tree and save the world”. He thus reeled out a striking message that “he who plants gives life, and the life we live is derived from the trees we plant.” He also reminded the state residents of a Chinese proverb that “when the last tree dies, the man follows.”
Bello’s message graphically x-rays the significance of planting trees. Put in the words of former United States Vice-President, Mr. Al Gore, the symbolism and substantive of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on earth, and it is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions for the environmental crisis. Bello thus described Gore’s statement as a wake-up call on many world leaders and dwellers “to come on the train to save mother earth from the looming crisis.”
This underlines Bello’s call for attitude change in the way the residents relate with their environment. The commissioner therefore observed that it “is disheartening to note that the threat of desert encroachment and deforestation are assuming frightening dimension as they affect the country’s arable land mass. For us in this part of Nigeria, deforestation is more of a concern and has negative implications on the environment in terms of soil erosion, loss of wild life and loss of biodiversity and ecosystems.”
Aside, Bello explained how deforestation “has impacted on social aspects of lives, specifically regarding economic issues, agriculture, conflict and most importantly, the quality of life”. But he expressed hope that the looming danger could be averted, and this explains why he said the man who “plants a tree plants a hope, a future and a life; so plant a tree today”. According to him, tree-planting is a reforestation exercise and required concerted effort.
The exercise has a lot of benefits for both humanity and the environment, a reason the commissioner sought combined efforts at both institutional and policy levels to adopt more sustainable use of forest resources by replanting trees to recover the fading cultivatable lands. He explained the significance of the effort on what he described as an intrinsic value of trees and its natural strength “to guarantee stress control.”
For him, this is not a top agenda at all, but the residents have a role to play. Bello hopes Lagos people much like residents of other cosmopolitan cities of the world “can achieve stress control by having natural plants, beautiful flowers and trees around.”
Bello’s conviction has to do with the natural strength of trees “to create vital habitat and promote diversity. So, abundant forests do not just enhance lives; they save lives as well.”
Bello further explained the gains of tree planting, especially in this fast-changing world. He specifically said planting trees and vegetation “expands the urban forest, create wildlife habitat and improve storm water management, thus making communities more pleasant to live in. trees also reduce the greenhouse effect by shading houses and office buildings.
“This reduces the need for air conditioning by up to 30 per cent, which in turn reduces the amount of fossil fuels burn to electricity. The combination of carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere, carbon storage in wood and the cooling effect makes trees extremely efficient tool in fighting the greenhouse effect,” he noted.
In what was termed Operation Green Lagos Programme, Bello said the programme, which is under his supervision, has attained 60 per cent achievement following the landscaping and beautification of open spaces in various parts of the state.
Bello explained that the state de-flooding initiative alone “has culminated in the construction and rehabilitation of over 200 drainages; more than 75 open spaces reclaimed and equally beautified in the last four years; over three million trees planted to mitigate effects of greenhouse emission and space tree transplanters procured to aid tree relocation and indiscriminate felling of trees to complement the on-going infrastructural renewal.”
For Fashola, what is required of every Lagos resident is to embrace new adaptation methods and strategies. He thus explained the essence of the campaign, noting that trees “act as a protection for neighbourhood and against natural disasters even though the state government has exceeded its projection on tree planting since the exercise started five years ago.
“The world has also experienced extreme weather and rainfall. Just before this campaign, over 50,000 people were displaced in Japan. In the last few months, places like Mississippi and Newcastle had experienced the adverse impact of climate change. In the aftermath of the July 10, 2011 downpour that flooded some areas like Lekki, Arigbanla, Agege, Idi- Araba, the State Government went to work in some of the areas.
“The outcome is that the solutions put in place have made much needed impact and are working such that there are no floods anymore in places like Lekki, Arigbanla, Agege and Idi- Araba. Specifically on the recent erosion challenges in some parts of Lagos, the state government is aware of the plight of people residing in the Alpha Beach. We will come to their aid and ensure that before the government comes they should plant a tree and protect it.”
He explained that the value of trees “is not limited to any area or social class,” warning against arbitrary felling of trees. In recognition of the necessity of time for trees to be moved and transplanted without getting killed, Fashola said the state government “has acquired a transplanter which can remove a tree irrespective of its size and transplant in any desired location without any harm to the tree. So, there is no reason for any resident cut down a tree”.
The governor harped on the responsibilities of both tenants landlords to support the campaign. He observed that the fact that a resident “is not a property owner does not undermine or deter the necessity for everyone to be ready to plant a tree. For those who might not know, it is the people who stand to benefit most when they plant trees”. He said the effort of the duo would save the state and its residents from future disasters.