Worried by the gradual erosion of wetlands and their agro-natural resources, the authorities of the University of Uyo (UNIUYO), Akwa Ibom State has called for strict enforcement of regulatory regimes to safeguards such natural habitats from extinction.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Enefiok Essien, spoke at a forum organized by the institution’s Centre for Wetlands and Waste Management Studies (WWMS) to mark the just concluded 2017 World Wetlands Day.
Represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in-charge of Academics, Dr. Inyang Udofot, the VC, who underscored the importance of wetlands as major drivers of agricultural resources, said it was time a holistic action plan was taken to secure such natural the areas encroachment.
Essien, a Professor of Law, noted the rich potentials of the wetlands including aquatic resources, adding if properly protected, the areas have the capacity to contribute to the nation’s food outputs and its Gross Domestic Products (GDPs).
The Director of the Centre, Prof. Gabriel Umoh, lamented the gradual disappearance of wetlands in Nigeria, and blamed the problem on human factors including reclamation, deforestation and urbanization.
Umoh, a Professor of Agricultural and Development Economics, who undertook a tour of some wetlands sites in Uyo, noted that such natural abodes were fast disappearing and governments and other stakeholders to halt the indiscriminate land reclamation practices that decimates agricultural wetlands.
“The visit to wetlands sites at Mbiabong Ikot Essien and Atiku Abubakar Way in Uyo has afforded us the opportunity to come face to face with the precarious states for wetlands in many of our communities.
“The natives of Mbiabong Ikot Essien community narrated how the wetlands used to serve as sources of potable water to the community and environs. How to harvest fish and other aquatic organisms and how the wetlands used to be abode of several species of birds in both wet and dry seasons”, Umoh noted.
He, however, regretted that the area has gradually given way to massive housing development and appealed to the State government to “declare and gazette Mbiabong wetland as protected area and take appropriate steps to manage it ”.
“African wetlands which covers more than 131 million hectares of land is experiencing immense pressure from commercial agriculture, settlements, excessive exploitation by local communities and improperly-managed development activities”, he added, noting that Niger Delta with the largest mangrove forest in the world remains the most heavily impacted due to oil exploration and exploitation.
The Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Iniobong Essien, lamented the dying wetlands and their natural resources, and attributed it to human activities including illegal mining, deforestation and bush burning.
The Commissioner, who was represented by Mrs. Comfort Asuquo, a Director in the Ministry, stressed the need for government to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to stem the tides of destruction meted out to wetlands and to conserve them for socio-economic development.
Other speakers including Prof. N.U. Ndaeyo, Chairman on the occasion; Prof. Imoh Ukpong of the Department of Geography and Natural Resources; Dr. Ubong Hanson, Coordinator of Erosion and Watershed Management Project and Dr. Faith Ekong, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, advocated for a holistic regulatory framework to protect such natural habitats.
This article was originally published by the Leadership Newspapers in February, 2017.
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