Government at all levels, corporate institutions, and public-spirited individuals in Nigeria have been called up to support research endeavors that would aid the protection, preservation, and development of wetlands across the country.
They are also charged with policies that prohibit encroachment into wetlands, thereby conserving them as important ecosystems for the supply of food, addressing impacts of climate change, and for recreational purposes.
Some environment stakeholders made the call at an event to commemorate World Wetland Day 2024 at the University of Lagos, UNILAG.
The event which featured the exhibition of relics of exotic plants and animals on the verge of extinction as well as indigenous artefacts was put together by the UNILAG Student Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER).
The event at the UNILAG Museum of Natural History” served as a platform for knowledge sharing among experts, researchers, policymakers, and students, on the development of innovative and sustainable solutions for the protection and restoration of wetlands in the country.
Coordinator of the SER, Dr. Excellence Akeredolu called on all and sundry to play a part in driving environmental sustainability initiatives, including the promotion of relevant research endeavors that conserve wetlands in the country.
Dr. Akeredolu explained that wetlands are unique habitats that provide a wide range of benefits to both humans and the environment, such as serving as natural water purifiers, preventing pollution from entering the water bodies, and ensuring the availability of clean water for various purposes.
“Wetlands also act as natural buffers against floods, absorbing excess water and reducing the risk of devastation in vulnerable areas. They are a haven for countless plant and animal species, supporting biodiversity and acting as breeding grounds for migratory birds.
“Today, as we come together to commemorate World Wetland Day,let us seize this opportunity to connect, collaborate ,and build capacity for wetland development. By networking and exchanging ideas, we can create a united front in the fight to protect and restore our wetlands”.
The environmentalist and UNILAG lecturer noted that wetlands in Africa general are facing degradation and that it is the responsibility of everyone to address these challenges and work towards their sustainable management and restoration.
“However, despite their invaluable contributions, wetlands face numerous challenges around the world. Urban development, pollution, climate Change and unsustainable land practices threaten the very existence of these ecosystems. Africa, with its rich wetland heritage,is no exception to these challenges. Wetlands in our continent are facing degradation and loss due to various human activities, including agriculture, infrastructure development, and improper waste disposal. Nigeria ,being home to diverse wetland ecosystems like the Niger Delta and Chad Basin, is particularly affected. It is the responsibility to address these challenges and work towards their sistainable management and restoration”.
The representative from the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, NCF, Mrs. Bolanle Akinleye-Okpara, Senior Officer, Grant & Fundraising,
on behalf of her organization implored Nigerians and Lagosians in particular to protect wetlands around them, bearing in mind that their survival depends on them.
Mrs Okpara who underscored the benefit of wetlands in mitigating climate change and droughts, stressed that NCF remained ever-ready to collaborate with willing partners in conserving the nation’s wetlands.
“If we don’t protect the wetland, we might find it very difficult to survive. The wetland is the major reservoir that we have to protect most of the species, it also serves as a good place for alleviating food insecurity. So the wetland is a place where the country can depend on to feed the nation. The wetland always have water , and it’s good place to breed any kind of crops.
“The wetland should also be protected because it helps us alleviate a lot of disasters,one of it is flooding.
“So, from the NCF, we are telling the government, the students, lecturer sand everyone that you can protect the wetland on your own, and if you cannot, you can join the NCF membership where your money can help you protect the wetland”.
On her part, Dr. Ayodele Omotayo, an Environmental Microbiologist and member of the Society for Ecological Restoration, identified pollution prevention as one of the ways of promoting the health of the wetlands.
“We should not kill the wetland with pollution, we should control our pollution. We should not dump our waste into water bodies”.
Dr. Ashiru Olayinka, a conservationist said the commemoration of World Wetland Day should be a time for the leaders and the led to take concrete actions to stop further degradation of the country’s environment.
“We should all be involved in celebration of events like this. They are important because we are quickly loosing the values of our environment. The environments are seriously degraded, especially the wetland”.
The event saw school children making presentations on the benefits of wetlands and some of the ways of preserving them.
The Acting Headmistress, of the University of Lagos Staff School, Akinade Eunice Adedoyin commended the organizers, adding that it exposed her pupils to the environment.
Among the dignitaries at the event was the Deputy Vice Chancellor, UNILAG, Professor Ayodele Atsenuwa, who stated their willingness to partner with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation in conserving the natural environment within the institution.
Touring the UNILAG Museum of
Natural History was a great experience for participants, especially some of the school children, who for the first time, saw the relics of exotic plants and animals on the verge of extinction, including whales, apes, crocodiles, and species of butterflies.
The World Wetlands Day is celebrated on the 2nd of February every year.