Stakeholders warn of dire consequences of a neglected ecosystem

During the recent UNESCO summit on ecosystem restoration, stakeholders brainstormed on the deteriorating relationship with nature and reaffirmed biodiversity as fundamental for human health and sustainable development. HELEN OJI reports.

Taking responsibility

The “United Nation Decade on Ecosystem Restoration” aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems in every continent and in every ocean in line with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The combined attitudes and lifestyles have dramatically altered the land around the world. Man has cleared forests and other natural terrains to create spaces for urban areas, settlements, agriculture and industries.

In doing so, the overall space for wildlife has been reduced and degraded natural safe spaces between humans and animals. There is the need for all to rise up and take responsibility to restore this human-nature safe space by taking responsible steps to conserve biodiversity and restore lost resources. 

Recover ecosystem

According to the United Nation Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon,

the decade places a demand on scientists, and indeed on all to work together to recover lost ecosystems and biodiversity to Build Back Better.

Kallon added that Building Back Better means protecting biodiversity to set us on a path to sustainability.  However, to achieve this, bold interdependent actions are needed across several fronts to address and remove drivers of biodiversity loss.

“Integrated and holistic approaches for improving human livelihoods and safeguarding natural resources and ecosystems in a sustainable manner is key,” he said.

The UN system is implementing a number of activities geared towards protecting the ecosystem and biodiversity of Nigeria, as well as addressing the consequences orchestrated by Covid-19 and climate change amongst others. “These activities include reducing the incidence of Out of School Children to help Nigeria build its human capital, engaging youths for long lasting peace building efforts, and to create solutions for Covid-19’s worst impacts.”

Protecting world lands, seas

Also the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, said the global loss of biodiversity is threatening the security of the worlds food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people including indigenous people and local communities especially in the African region.

“Protected areas are the cornerstones of  conservation. The World is facing a planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and the good news is that it is not too late to reverse the current trends if conservation efforts are scaled up and protected areas are expanded .

However, through the Ministry of Environment, Nigeria joined the Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People calling for the protection of 30% of worlds lands and seas by 2030, to halt the accelerating loss of species and protect vital ecosystems.

The federal government said recently that it is strongly committed to taking bold steps to reverse biodiversity loss and to mitigate climate change.

Ikeazor stressed that in line with the  conservation policy, Nigeria identified and processed more protected areas with the approval of UNESCO, secured three more Biosphere Reserves namely: (a) Oban Biosphere Reserve; (b) Okwango Biosphere Reserve, both in Cross Rivers state; and (c) Hadejia-Nguru-Bade Biosphere Reserve, straddling Yobe and Jigawa states.

The designation of these biosphere reserves is geared towards reversing various ecological changes and disruption caused by the removal of flora species, displacement of fauna species and alternation of the natural ecosystem, while at the same time enhancing the livelihoods of the indigenous communities in a sustainable manner. The Biosphere Reserves are expected to positively impact not only the environment, but also on social, economic and cultural aspects, especially peoples’ welfare. This commendable agenda is critical to fostering harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participatory dialogue, knowledge sharing, poverty reduction and human wellbeing improvements, respect for cultural values and society’s ability to cope with change.

Combined culture, heritage and science

Also speaking, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, said the  erosion of biodiversity is no longer a hypothesis, but a fact that can already be seen and felt in everyday living.

Azoulay noted that climate and biodiversity are inextricably linked: when one suffers, the other does too as Nigeria knows all too well, especially on the shores of Lake Chad.

“With this impending collapse, not only is human survival at risk, but also the beauty, the poetry, the diversity of the world and this collapse is not inevitable: there is still time to make peace with the planet.

“We have less than 10 years to achieve the goal that the United Nations wishes to set: for 30% of the planet to be covered by protected areas. It is also the aim of our work in Lake Chad basin, with the Biopalt project, which seeks to restore ecosystems and social ties by building on the combined forces of culture, heritage and science.

That local and indigenous populations, custodians of 80% of ecosystems, have so much to teach us. 50 years on, this vision has become reality, since 275 million people now live in UNESCO’s 714 Biosphere Reserves in 129 countries,” he stated.