The authorities must do more and halt the encroachment on the green areas
Against the background that Abuja was conceived with the idea of avoiding the mistakes of Lagos, it is important for all critical stakeholders to be mindful of the need for a sustainable lifestyle which future generations can enjoy. We therefore call on the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammed Bello, to stop the encroachment on green areas within the Abuja metropolis which are increasingly being converted into residential and commercial land to feed the insatiable appetite of some influence peddlers.
We must first commend Bello for his aspiration to ensure the attainment of 40 per cent threshold of green areas in the city. “The whole concept of the park policy is to make sure that these green areas within Abuja as a city and to some extent parts of the territory are left green to be able to meet the 40 per cent threshold of green areas,” said Bello who highlighted that Abuja was way ahead of many cities in terms of climate consideration before the distortion started. “That was achieved to a large extent some years back but with population growth of the city and demand for housing and land, if we are not conscious about it we may derail the plan and just make it a concrete city.”
Unfortunately, that is already happening given the spate with which choice plots of land are now being repurposed, especially to the high and mighty in government and the cynical violation of the same Master plan in highbrow districts of the city. What is particularly disturbing is the total disregard for the environment that seems to be driving a new frenzy for land racketeering in which many of the green areas are being converted to residential plots. Although this did not start with the current administration, the encroachment is now done with flagrance. We urge Bello to put an end to this in line with his vision for the green area.
Abuja is our common heritage, and its land resources are to be held in trust by those in power on behalf of all Nigerians, big and small. Therefore, protecting its environment should be important. Parks and other forms of green space, we must state, are integral part of all modern cities and a recent report indeed confirmed that urban green spaces have positive effects on peoples’ health. The report warns that with the current global situation in which more people now inhabit urban areas and the dire expectations that by 2050 there will be a ratio of two to one between urban and rural dwellers, not paying attention to green areas could be catastrophic.
According to the report, “green spaces have several positive effects on one’s wellbeing; both physiological and psychological. Hospital patients recover more quickly when they see trees from their windows, and children living in urban environment without greenery find it harder to concentrate in school…As public places that everyone can enjoy regardless of background, parks and green spaces play an important societal role; they make neighbourhoods more attractive; they contribute to the community spirit and further social integration.”
The challenge of Abuja green areas is being traced to the inability to maintain them and the concession policy that has not worked out as planned. For instance, according to Bello, almost 95 per cent of those who took parks under concession converted them into structures thereby abusing them and the environment. “Instead of temporary structures using environmentally friendly materials they started constructing solid concrete structures,” the minister explained.
Having highlighted the problem, we expect Bello to put in place the machinery to reverse the ugly trend.