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Experts alert on depletion of forest resources

                                           PHOTO: Heinrich Böll Stiftung Nigeria
• Recedes At Four Per Cent Yearly
• Nigeria’s Forest Losses Fourth Highest Globally

Except conscious steps are taken to replenish the country’s scalping forest cover, and return to old culture of forest reserves, the country could be setting the stage for catastrophic consequences on its flora and fauna.
Already, experts are worried at the Federal Government’s seeming inaction over different human activities that are aggravating the depletion of these reserves, and consequently contributing to global temperature rise; alteration of local climatic conditions resulting in heat-related fatalities; dehydration; spread of infectious diseases; malnutrition; damage to public health infrastructure, migration of both man and animals; disruption of farming season and destruction of property.
The fears of stakeholders, align with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which in its latest report stated that the country’s original forest cover has been drastically reduced, with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimating an annual loss of four per cent, the global highest.
Globally, it is estimated that loss of forest alone contributes about 20 per cent of Green House Gases (GHGs), particularly carbon that contributes to global warming and climate change.
The report added that different human activities account for the changing global climate – primary among them being the rise of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, mainly due to reduced sinks (forests).
Right now, over 50 per cent of the country’s remaining tropical high forests are located in Cross River State alone, while those in other parts of the country including Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun have been largely depleted, consequently reducing the forest cover from 16 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2014.
Project Officer, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA) and Coordinator, Forest and Biodiversity, Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA), Rita Uwaka told The Guardian that, “Nigeria’s deforestation record will continue to soar if urgent and deliberate efforts are not taken to curtail it as over 350, 000 to 400, 000 hectares of forested landmass are being deforested every year. Before now, Nigeria had the fourth highest deforestation rate in the world and the second highest in Africa after Sudan.
“From 1990 to 2005, Nigeria lost 35.7 per cent of its forest cover, which is around 6, 145, 000 hectares. This development is disturbing considering the importance of forests to man and mother earth. Nigeria’s forests have continued to shrink in size largely due to industrial plantations, unsustainable logging, oil spill and forest fire (in the Niger Delta) leading to the destruction of complex forest mangroves.”
Lax government regulations on harvesting of forest products (where they exist), especially timber, have contributed immensely to the rape of the forest. Interestingly, in Cross River State, where a 10-year moratorium is still in place is also suffering, illegal logging still thrives, according to the Executive Director, Development Concern (DEVCON), and Board Chairman, Ekuri Initiative, Mr. Martins Egot.
According to him, “Even in Cross River State that we have some level of control, you see that there is extinction of very important wood species. Woods like Apa, Ebony, Black Afara, Mahogany, Teak and others, are difficult to get now. You can only get those species in Ekuri, where the forest is still visibly intact. If you look at the logging that is taking place around here, the woods that you would see are the soft wood. For loggers to access species like Mimusops, Mahogany and other high-level furniture wood that are getting out of the way, they need to go deep into the forest. If you give them five years given the rate of exploitation, these species will be completely extinct because we cannot grow them easily. For senior lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Lagos, Prof. Alabi Soneye, not regulating the exploitation of forest resources would only ensure that some animals go into extinction, even as plants that are of high medicinal value are endangered.
He said: “We need oxygen to survive, while we give out carbon dioxide, which plants take in, after which they release oxygen for us. When we deplete vegetation, it means we are reducing the amount of oxygen that we should have in circulation. There is a minimum level of oxygen that we are supposed to have for us to live very healthy, which is about 20.8 per cent. Anything less than that could lead to series of disasters, deaths or casualties. So, when forests are depleted, the chances of getting oxygen are equally reduced. So, before everyone is put on life support and pumped with oxygen, we must all think of natural ways of accessing these things primarily through plants.”
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