By Bassey Inyang in Calabar
As controversy surrounding the construction of the proposed 260 kilometres in Cross River State rages, stakeholders in projects; the rainforest communities and civil society organisations (CSOs) have demanded that they be involved in the drafting of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), for the project.
The stakeholder also demanded that compensation be paid to the communities that would be affected by the construction of the proposed super highway, designed to extend from Bakassi in the state to Katsina-Ala in Benue State.
Their demand is coming amid fears that the EIA for the project done in March this year at the instance of the state government, was rejected by the Federal Ministry of Environment for allegedly being inadequate.
The stakeholders made the call in the resolution they reached at a two-day community dialogue and one day EIA training at Okokori and Ekuri communities in the central part of the state, held from June 9 to June 11, 2016, which was coordinated by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF).
The demands were contained in a 14-point communiqué signed and issued at the end of the events by representatives of Old Ekuri community; representatives of New Ekuri community; representatives of Okokori community; representatives of Edondon community; Ekuri Initiative, EI; Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF; Rural Action for Green Environment (RAGE) and Green Concern for Development (GREENCODE). The rest are Peace Point Action (PPA); Lokiaka Development Centre (LDC); Rainforest Research and Development Centre (RRDC); and NGO Coalition on Environment (NGOCE).
The document read in part: “At the end of a three day interactive community dialogue and EIA training, participants and community stakeholders from Edondon, Okokori, Old and New Ekuri resolved that they: “Need good roads but do not want their cultural heritage destroyed.
“Insist on active engagement of communities in the EIA process with adequate compensation paid where necessary; Write to Government to register their concerns relating to the proposed super highway project;
“Call for NGOs and International agencies support to build a stronger alliance against the super highway project especially with regard to threats to forests; Community’s FPIC must be sought in all projects before implementation;
“Protest and resist any unsustainable forest management practices in the forest rich region; Reduce every activity that promotes deforestation; Promote forest conservation and regeneration of indigenous trees in degraded areas.
“Minimise poaching, unregulated hunting and stop illegal wild life trade; Reject use of forest lands for large scale plantations; Campaign against water pollution and the indiscriminate use of chemicals; Strengthen the Community Forest Watch for effective community forest monitoring; Form a community health monitoring group to ensure sustainable forest management practices; and
“Help to protect, preserve and conserve their forest which provides them with social, economic, spiritual benefits.”