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Putting the Environment first

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Last week, the United Nations World Environment Day was marked. Celebrated every June 5, the day serves as a reminder of our shared responsibilities as countries and individuals on the need to protect and restore our planet.

The world is going through one of the most challenging record decades with global warming and climate change impacts.

From insecurity to droughts, heatwaves, irregular rain patterns, floods, deaths and hunger, countries and families are going through tough times. With each day that passes, the future seem so bleak.

Children and women suffer from strange illnesses and infant mortality rate is on the increase despite the United Nations efforts in tackling these problems through aids.

It is for this reason that the need to safeguard the planet was emphasised during this year’s World Environment Day with the theme; land restoration, desertification and drought resilience.

According to UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, humanity depends on land and as such countries must deliver on all their commitments to restore degraded ecosystems and land, and on the entire Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

For environmental body, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), there is an urgent need for the declaration of State of emergency on the environment, especially in Nigeria.

HOMEF, said this year’s celebration urges us to reflect on our stewardship duty towards the Nature, environment and all living beings rather than continuing with a predatory and destructive relationships that negate our well-being.

HOMEF in a statement to mark the day, urged that steps must be taken to halt deforestation, biodiversity erosion and land degradation, adding that without serious climate action humanity will remain on a downward spiral to multiple crises that are already plaguing the world today.

The Non-Governmental Organisation said that the day is a good time for reflection and a change of direction. The body also noted that the day offers Nigeria a template for socioeconomic and environmental reexamination and action.

The body noted that parts of Africa are ravaged by environmental degradation, water stress and drought and Nigeria is particularly affected by desertification and other ecological harms.

“As we celebrate World Environment Day, we remind ourselves that our environment has been plagued with destructive activities especially through resource extraction and poor land-use changes.

“Nigeria needs an emergency environmental restoration plan across board as the only way to build resilience and ensure a safe future.

“This is our duty to ourselves and to future generations and immediate steps should be taken by the Nigerian government to ensure the proper clean-up of polluted lands, restoration of same and payment of compensation for damage suffered,” the statement read in part.

On its part, a non-governmental organisation, Climate Africa Media Initiative Centre (CAMIC), charged stakeholders across the world to appreciate the importance of trees and take immediate actions to restore and protect the forests.

The body said by implementing and enforcing strong deforestation laws, promoting sustainable land use practices, supporting reforestation and afforestation projects and raising awareness about the importance of trees and encouraging community involvement in tree planting initiatives, climate change impacts could be ameliorated.

CAMIC, which noted the importance of trees to the environment said their preservation is not a choice but a necessity for our continued existence.

CAMIC further underscored the critical importance of trees in maintaining a balanced and sustainable environment.

It said: “Trees are often referred to as the lungs of the Earth. Through the process of photosynthesis, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which is essential for the survival of most living organisms. One mature tree can produce enough oxygen annually to support two human beings.

“Trees play a crucial role in mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. Forests act as carbon sinks, reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and thus helping to stabilize global temperatures.

“Trees provide habitat and food for a vast array of species. Forests are home to over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. The loss of trees would lead to the extinction of numerous species, disrupting ecosystems and the services they provide.

“Trees are integral to the water cycle. They absorb and store rainwater, which helps prevent floods and droughts. Their root systems also improve soil stability and reduce erosion.

“Trees provide resources such as fruits, nuts, timber, and medicine, which are vital for many communities’ livelihoods. Agroforestry, which integrates trees and agriculture, can enhance food security and economic resilience. If all trees were to die, the consequences would be catastrophic”.

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