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Cablegate: Nigeria: First Environment Summit Exposes Problems

VZCZCXRO8019
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #2304/01 3291345
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241345Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4531
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 0317
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002304

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR OES/ENV PRATHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ENRG EAGR ECON EFIS EPET NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: FIRST ENVIRONMENT SUMMIT EXPOSES PROBLEMS

REF: ABUJA 2275

1. Summary: From October 20-21, 2008 the Nigerian government (GON)
hosted its first ever environmental summit where participants from
the federal and state governments, civil society and academics
assessed the environment and discussed approaches for sustainable
development. The summit provided a forum for lively and spirited
discussions, where several environmental NGOs and academics
criticized the GON for lack of vision and paying lip service to
protecting the environment. The forum concluded with the signing of
a 23-point national environmental pledge and with a recommendation
to integrate the environment into the national agenda. A promised
action plan is still being debated. The overall assessment of
observers is that Nigeria is unlikely to meet several of the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly reducing by half
the number of the people without sustainable access to safe drinking
water by 2015. End Summary
.
THE STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT
----------------------------
.
2. The summit, which was officially inaugurated by Vice President
Goodluck Jonathan, identified deforestation and land degradation;
drought and desertification, flooding and soil erosion; oil, gas and
industrial pollution; and urban decay and municipal waste as the
main environmental challenges that Nigeria faces. Additionally, the
country's large population (140 million in 2006), rapid population
growth rate of 3%, significant rural to urban migration,
unsustainable agricultural practices, and lack of proper hazardous
waste management were identified as exacerbating the situation.
According to a study presented by Professor Olusola Ojo from the
Department of Geography at the University of Ibadan, these adverse
conditions are resulting in climate change in Nigeria and unless
urgently addressed pose significant threat to the sustainable
development of the country and its security. He urged the GON to
strengthen and enforce its environmental standards in order to
improve the current "unacceptable" state of the environment and
impending future threats.
.
DEPLETING WATER RESOURCES AND POOR MANAGEMENT
---------------------------------------------
.
3. Data provided at the summit indicates that only 35% of the rural
and 50% of urban populations have access to reliable water supply.
According to Professor Ojo, surface and groundwater contamination
and depleting water resources are major challenges and a potential
source of conflict, especially in rural areas. He pointed out the
state water agencies lack adequate capacity and resources to address
these challenges. In the urban setting, lack of effective planning,
ageing pipes, and unreliable supply of electricity for water
treatment were identified as the main problems. Professor Oladele
Osibanjo, Regional Coordinator for the Basel Convention, stated that
"unless drastic measures are taken Nigeria is unlikely to attain the
Millennium Development Goal (MDGs), particularly reducing by half
the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking
water and basic sanitation by 2015."
.
NORTHERN NIGERIA TURNING INTO A DESERT
--------------------------------------
.
4. According to GON estimates, the process of desertification in
northern Nigeria due to climatic variations (recurring drought) and
unsustainable human activities (deforestation and overgrazing), is
expanding at an alarming rate of .06 Kilometers per year. Nine
states (Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe
and Zamfara) are officially designated as desertification front line
states (DFSs). These states have a combined population of 34
million and account for 38% of Nigeria's total land mass. To
counter desertification and support economic activity in the DFS
states, the GON established in the 1970s the River Basin Authorities
(RBDAs) and embarked on the construction of large dams and pumping
stations.

5. By 1990, the RBDAs had built 162 dams with a total capacity
sufficient to irrigate 725,000 hectares. However, the sites chosen
didn't always have sufficient irrigable land nearby. Consequently,
only 293,117 were developed out of which only 218,000 hectares are
regularly irrigated. Professor Ojo described these large public-run
and capital intensive projects "disappointing, and negatively
affecting the hydrology of the downstream areas, accentuating the
desertification process." To combat further desert encroachment,
the GON has introduced the Greenbelt Program, a project to establish
a 1,500 km shelterbelt across the extreme north part of the country
(from Kebbi State in the west to Borno State in the east) covering
the desertification frontline states. Several nurseries have been
established in the frontline and buffer states with each nursery
capable of producing up to 1 million seedlings per annum. Hundreds
of thousands of trees have been planted, since the program's
establishment in 2004 but there is no clear data to evaluate the
success of the program. (Note: the Ambassador has promoted the

ABUJA 00002304 002 OF 002


planting of trees through active participation in the Abuja Greening
Project, a tree planting project in the capital city. End Note).

6. Several states in the south suffer from gully erosion and
landslides. According to recent press reports, the government has
declared south east Nigeria an ecological disaster zone. Following
an October 29 meeting, Vice President Jonathan and the governors of
five affected states (Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, and Enugu) agreed
to set up a committee to improve the situation.
.
COASTAL AND MARINE POLLUTION
----------------------------
.
7. Experts contend that activities related to the oil and gas
industry in the ecologically sensitive Niger delta cause serious
pollution to marine resources. According to Professor Osibanjo,
incessant oil spills (largely from illegal oil bunkering) pollute
natural and drinking water sources and destroy farmlands. Other
causes include dumping wastes and discharges into the sea, gas
flaring and emission from power generation. Lack of proper waste
disposal facilities, weak regulations and penalties and poor
enforcement are additional challenges. He recommended that the
Nigerian government develop and implement a comprehensive
institutional framework to prevent coastal and marine pollution,
including at Nigeria's main sea ports. The Nigerian Oil Spills
Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) lacks resources and
institutional capacity to counter marine pollution. (Note: In
January 2009, the U.S. Mission will receive a Science Fellow from
the U.S. Department of Energy with expertise in oil spill detection
and recovery. The Fellow will be detailed to NOSDRA for six weeks
to help build the agency's capacity. End Note).
.
INADEQUATE WASTE DISPOSAL AND MANAGEMENT
----------------------------------------
.
8. According to various speakers, Nigeria generally practices waste
disposal rather than waste management. Municipal solid waste is an
intractable problem beyond the capacity of most municipal and state
governments. Disposal of waste without segregation is the norm and
as a result is causing significant damages to the environment.
Leachates from refuse dumps percolate into and contaminate the
surface and groundwater leading to public health problems in various
communities.

9. Electronic waste is a new growing hazard. Data from
presentations at the summit demonstrate that 400,000 used computers
enter the country monthly, of which only 25% are functional. Crude
methods are being used to repair or recover precious metals from the
unserviceable used computers while the rest is burnt or dumped
mainly in the Lagos area. Professor Osibanjo said "a chemical time
bomb is ticking from an old industrial solid waste dumped in Lalupon
local government area in Oyo State." The Osibanjo asserted that
West African Battery Limited, a defunct acid battery manufacturing
plant, dumped waste containing 8-10% lead (confirmed by lab
analysis) close to highly populated villages around Lalupon, causing
significant threat to children and pregnant women. The main
challenges to effective waste management are lack of resources,
adequate infrastructure (waste collection, treatment, and disposal
facilities), and public awareness.
.
Comment
-------
.
10. The summit served as an excellent platform for frank exchanges
between the GON and various stakeholders. It concluded with a
recommendation to integrate the environment into the national agenda
and the signing of a 23-point national environmental pledge. If
followed through with concrete measures, these steps will go a long
way to address the myriad of environmental challenges that Nigeria
faces.
.
11. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Lagos.

SANDERS

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