World Environmental Day (Wed 2014)

Climate Change: Take action before the Niger Delta is submerged! Say No to pollution, Start tree planting now.

By Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy

This year's World Environment Day has taken the theme, “Raise your voice not the sea level” with focus on Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It focuses critically on adaptation strategies for island areas or states that are vulnerable to climate change and its devastating effects.

According to the Department for International Development (DIFD), the Niger Delta stands to lose over 15,000km2(75%) of land by the year 2050, with just a one meter rise in sea levels! In real terms this means that at least 80% of the people of the region will be displaced due to the low-lying level of the land and its contiguity with the sea. The floods of 2012 are a vivid reminder of what could be a daily reality in the Niger Delta with impending rise in sea levels.

SIDS territories share similar sustainable development challenges, including vulnerability to external shocks and excessive dependence on their natural resources. By implication these states are poorly developed, and have demonstrated, up to now, a lack of internal dynamism to bring about the kind and extent of change necessary to lead them out of this economic bind.

It is important to note that coastal communities in the Niger Delta share similar developmental challenges as those enumerated above, and are vulnerable to climate change. In the case of the Niger Delta, this is made worse by a reckless oil industry that ignored for far too long the tell-tale signs of climate change, and continued to spill oil and flare gas without consideration for what this does to our fragile environment.

Perhaps far worse are the activities of oil thieves and artisanal refiners, whose operations have made a bad case worse. It is on this note that FOUNDATION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS, ADVOCACY & DEVELOPMENT (FENRAD) is raising its voice and sounding a note of warning that we are living dangerously, and that our fragile ecosystem is tottering under the weight of this industry.

FENRAD is an Environmental & Human Rights organization that seeks the advancement of proper environmental protection, the enthronement of healthy community levels, the support of peace, justice, Development, Human Rights and Good governance and enthronement of Reforms in the Electoral and Democratic structures across the country.

Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) was incorporated into Corporate Affairs Commission under the Trusteeship Act of non-political, non-religious and non-profit making organization in November 2011. It has been working and participating in awareness activities, campaigns and interventions since September 2003 on Environmental sustainable and climate Justice.

We are bonded together by our common concern for the lingering environmental degradation of the Niger Delta Region, occasioned in part by oil spills, gas flaring and illegal oil bunkering. Right before our eyes, we can see a steady and systematic depletion of hitherto rich mangroves and other flora. Freshwater swamps that used to be rich breeding grounds for a variety of aquatic life have become so polluted that in some cases nothing biotic literally can survive.

Consequently, the livelihood of Niger Delta people is also severely impacted. Our people cannot farm anymore, not because they have become lazy, but because those among them who tried received uncharacteristically poor crop yields. The inevitable poverty faced by communities has forced many to seek refuge in towns and cities around the region. This urban drift is environmentally unsustainable.

The Niger Delta, as we know, lies on the Atlantic coast line, and is the second largest delta in the World. It spans over 20,000 km2 and hosts about 40% of the population of Nigeria. Its oil and gas resources are the mainstay of the Nigerian state, accounting for about 90% of the country's revenue and total export earnings. However, even a cursory look at the region shows an unmistakably wasteful oil and gas economy that consistently leaves the poor behind.

Statistics show that an estimated 168 billion cubic meters of natural gas is flared worldwide, and that 13% of this is flared in Nigeria alone! Through this wasteful act the country loses about $2.5 billion in potential revenue annually, a total of $72billion in the period 1970-2006. Gas flaring also contributes to climate change and extreme weather conditions that render the coastline amenable to erosion, among other effects.

A recent report by the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals that coastal vegetation, especially the mangroves, have been lost to coastal erosion, further compounding the problem of climate change. In addition, the Federal Ministry of Environment in 2010 warned about the alarming rate of forest loss in Nigeria and if depletion continues with no abatement measure in place, it is estimated that the remaining forest, majority of which is located in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, would likely disappear by 2020.

It is against this backdrop that FENRAD calls on the Nigerian government, Oil companies and other implicated agents to put an end to routine gas flaring in the Niger Delta and immediately conduct a region-wide environmental audit. We encourage gas to power projects and increased domestic gas utilization across the country. All residents of this region must aim for climate change neutrality, through the use of renewable energy and other sustainable mitigation and adaptation approaches that are environmentally friendly and people centered.

We call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to enforce regulation of the oil and gas industry, with punitive measures for polluters as well as tax breaks to encourage cleaner operations. The International community is to insist that industrialised nations that are principally responsible for the current high levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions adhere to the Kyoto Protocol and steadily reduce emissions. As FENRAD we raise our voices and not the sea level! FENRAD is a Member & Southeast Regional Co-ordinator of Climate and Sustainable Development Network of Nigeria (CSDEVNET) is a national coalition of civil society organizations, private sector, media, and individuals in Nigeria brought together by a common agenda of promoting and advocating for climate related and equity based initiative for sustainable development.

The network which comprises over forty (40) member-organizations across Nigeria aspires to be an effective platform for Nigerian Civil Society Organizations to share information and strategize jointly, advocate for environmental sustainability and implement development programmes, and coordinate engagement with the Nigerian government and other stakeholders on climate change and sustainable development issues.

CSDEVENT is working in affiliate with PAN AFRICAN CLIMIATE JUSTICE Alliance (PACJA). FENRAD is also a member of the Coalition For business and Human Rights(CBHR) Civil Society Coalition on Poverty Eradication (CISCOPE), Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Nigeria, Niger Delta Universal Periodic Review Coalition (UPR) Southeast Development Agenda(SEDA) Southeast Governance Network(SEGON), Green Alliance Network (GEN) West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF)) Nigeria. Climate Change Sustainable Development Network (CSDEVNET), Niger Delta Anti Corruption Network (NIDAN).

National Coalition on Gas flaring and Oil spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) HUMAN RIGHTS NETWORK AGENDA (HRAN) PARTNERS FOR PEACE IN THE NIGER-DELTA (P4P)and African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA) a coalition of organizations based in Africa supporting our communities and individuals whose human rights are adversely impacted daily by the activities of corporations, both multi-national and domestic.

We are civil society organizations working on issues ranging from mining and other extractive industries, public and private security sector accountability, natural resource rights(climate change biodiversity), including land acquisition, tenure and property rights, financial regulatory policy, as well as accountability mechanisms for human and people's rights, and Environmental Rights.

ACCA is committed to implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in a critical and nuanced manner that reflects the challenges of advancing corporate accountability in Africa.

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Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD)