A recent report has hinted that Nigeria is recording four per cent forest loss annually which is considered as the highest globally.
LEADERSHIP discovered that worldwide, that forest loss alone contributed to about 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions especially carbon that had contributed to global warming and climate change.
As global temperatures rose, local climatic conditions were altered, a situation that led to 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 properties.
Irrespective of this, different human activities are responsible for the changing global climate especially the rise of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere mainly due to reduced sinks (forests).
The findings contained in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nigeria 2016 Annual report was made available to LEADERSHIP.
It also revealed that over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s remaining tropical high forests were located in Cross River State alone.
Added to this is a revelation from a recent study that pointed out that Nigeria’s forest cover reduced from 16 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2014, while areas covered by farmland increased from 25 per cent to 30 per cent in the same period.
The founder, Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE), Dr Newton Jibunoh, disclosed that the threat of desert encroachment and desertification were assuming frightening dimension especially as it affected the nation’s arable land mass.
He revealed that forests and trees stored carbon which helped to mitigate the impacts of climate change in and around urban areas.
Jibunoh pointed out that trees improved the local climate thereby helping to save energy used for heating by 20-50 per cent.
Reeling out facts about trees, he noted that strategic placement of trees in urban areas could cool the air by up to 8 degrees Celsius which he believed would reduce air conditioning needs by 30 per cent.
While saying that urban trees were excellent air filters that remove harmful pollutants in the air and fine particulates, he disclosed that trees reduced noise pollution even as it shielded homes from nearby roads and industrial areas.
He added, “Local population use the fruits, nuts, leaves, and insects found in urban trees to produce food and medicines for use in the home, or as a source of income.”
The desert warrior stated that forests in and around urban areas helped to filter and regulate water while contributing to high-quality freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people.
Jibunoh indicated that forests protected watersheds and could prevent flooding as it stored water in its branches and soil.
He stated that well- managed forests and trees in and around cities provided habitats, food, and protection for many plants and animals, just as it helped to maintain and increase biodiversity.
According to him, “Forests in cities and surrounding areas generate tourism, create tens of thousands of jobs and encourage city beautification schemes, building dynamic, energetic and prosperous green economies.”
He said that urban green spaces like parks, gardens, including forests, encouraged active and healthy lifestyles, improved mental health, prevented diseases, and provided a place for people to socialise.
However, in commemoration of the international day of forest, the minister of state environment, Ibrahim Jibril, said that the day is celebrated worldwide to create awareness of the importance of forests to urban lives.
The United Nations General Assembly had adopted a resolution on December 2012, that set aside March 21 annually as the international day of forest.
The theme of this years event: ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities,’ was meant to highlight the need to plant more trees in order to preserve the ecosystem especially as the world witnesses the negative impact of climate change.
The minister said, “It is important to understand the place and contributions of forests to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) 7 which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.”
Jibril emphasised that SDGs goal 15 seeks to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, reverse land degradation as well as halt biodiversity loss adding that the life cycle of the earth depended largely on the forests.
He stressed that forests plays a vital role by providing shelter to both human and animals; balance oxygen and carbon dioxide likewise in protecting waterways that supplies fresh water to rivers.
The minister stated the tree planting exercise would serve as a clarion call on the need for people to start planting trees as the raining season gradually unfolds.
He added that the ministry’s choice to plant trees in Otakpo primary school, Abuja was an innovation to address the younger minds on the concept of ‘the tree and the child’.