Different nations of the world are to a greater or lesser extent faced with the same constraints and opportunities, and are called with varying degree of urgency to provide individual answers to the common challenges.
No matter the priorities of each country, areas such as education, economics and social development, health and environment still await sustainable solutions. This requires a creative application of democratic principles and practices to tackling both local and national imperatives. Quality governance, with an eye on environmental sustainability is one sure way of, not only solving a country’s priorities, but also achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Environmental sustainability is critical because without it, the achievements of the rest of the goals may be short-lived. The fact is that, economics depend, to a large extent, on environmental resources.
|Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola|
Scared by the unsustainable lifestyle in Nigeria, the Chairman of Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Chief Philip Asiodu warned that “Economic downturn is nothing compared with a global ecological downturn and the disasters that will come with it.” Thus, if we think this warning by the retired technocrat is alarmist or untimely, then we may have to consider the impact of climate variability on the economy of Kenya; between 1997 and 2001, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth dropped from 4.6 per cent to 0.3 per cent. The key factor is that the downturn leads to inadequate investment in sustainable infrastructure to control floods or store water for use during draught.
The question is, as nations continue to have their fare share of environmental problems like flood, hurricanes, pollutions, droughts to name a few, what is our beloved country putting in place at the Federal, State and local government levels to prevent, or mitigate the threats to the integrity of our ecosystem? While Nigerians are yet to recover from the shock arising from last year flood disaster in Lagos and Ibadan, and a more terrifying flood which claimed over 50 lives and property worth millions of naira just hit Jos, Plateau State. If that level of flooding disaster could happen in Jos, what should we expect in flood-prone areas like Niger, Oyo, Ogun? What should we expect in flood-plagued city of Lagos.
For instance, the Gov. Babatunde Fashola administration in Lagos, is doing his best to clear drainages, but his best is not enough, for some reasons. First, the source of the flood is trans-boundary. The flood from neighboring states of Oyo and Ogun empties into it.
Secondly, there are numerous settlements occupied by the urban poor which lack drainages. Successive administrations in the state has failed to construct a comprehensive drainage system. Thirdly, as a coastal, commercial and civic city, its huge population is overburdening the few available working infrastructure. The encroachment of human settlements unto floodplain areas increases the vulnerability to flood.
If you take a trip to some of the rural communities in Anambra and Edo (North), you will see what erosion has done to the quality of life of the people. In most cases their livelihood, as subsistence farmers, are threatened. It is either the path to their farms, markets, or that of their streams has been taken over by erosion.
In virtually all the eastern states and some south-south states, the soil fertility is gone and their successive state governors have not been concerned about food production like their colleague in the North and West. Consequently, fertilizers have been scarce. It was the newly elected governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who recently commenced the distribution of fertilizers in the state directly to farmers.
The degradation of the environment of oil producing states of the south-south is an old song, yet nothing much have changed in the livelihood of the people in spite of budgetary allocations to the region. Many of these communities are yet to have access to sanitary infrastructure and quality maternal care.
Poverty still pervades across most northern states due to desertification and lack of poverty-oriented policies. Their case is presently worsened by insecurity occasioned by the recent Boko Haram insurgence.
In no distant time, this will adversely impinge on the agricultural productivity of that region. It is sad to note that in most of these Nigerian communities, many of the breadwinners are people on less than $3 dollars a day income. How many of our state governors and local government authorities can boast of projects that are environmentally sustainable. Housing estates and market projects in state capitals are often showcased by many governors. Yet, they are offered to citizens at unsustainable prices. Some states have built schools and even some Federal government MDG schools are situated in flood plains, thereby making such projects unsustainable.
If the searchlight is turned to the government at the centre, the picture is that of contradictions. Too many environmental agencies, yet no action. Too many environment summits and conferences, yet little technical capacity. Too much efforts towards aforestation, yet making Kerosene unaffordable. Too much talk on power sector reforms, and advocacy for energy efficiency, yet inappropriate pricing and non-availability of power. Too much grants received, and budgetary allocations appropriated, yet no funds released to execute sustainable projects.
Good governance entails the awareness by those in power of possible ecological and sociological breakdowns, putting in place ways and means of minimizing their effects. It also entails their monitoring to ensure the adoption of Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) by private sector concerns in their domains.
Sustainable development, therefore, depends largely on the quality of governance and political will. There is a compelling need to mobilize the required political will at all levels of government. It is also necessary to mobilize all relevant stakeholders in the work.
As Borge Brend, the former Nowegian Minister of Environment aptly puts it, “Developing countries need to assign priorities, draw up strategies, invest in human resources, and implement poverty oriented policies. Good governance (That is, anti-corruption policies), democracy building, and respect for human rights are crucial to combat poverty and to make development sustainable.”
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