Environmental hazards are global problems that exert tremendous influence on the sustainability and healthy living of human beings in various manifestations. Nigeria has a total land area of 983,213km square occupied by about 200 million people.
The interaction of these millions of people with their environment has left indelible mark on the landscape. Urbanization, deforestation, desertification, over population, land degradation and all kinds of pollution are some of the resultant effects of man’s interaction with his environment. These changes occur as people attempt to satisfy their seemingly endless desire for food, shelter, recreation and infrastructural facilities. Though these wants and desires contribute to the development of the country, the unwise and exploitative use of the land and its resources negatively impact the environment. Environmental challenges are caused mainly by natural forces and anthropogenic/human influences, or a combination of the two. The most common environmental problems in Nigeria are anthropogenic in nature.
They occur as a result of human intent, negligence, error or failure of human-made system. Human activities in Nigeria resulted into environmental challenges like biodiversity loss, oil spillage, flooding, urban housing problem, water scarcity, as well as pollution. Other forms of environmental degradation are desert encroachment, ozone layer depletion, global warming, poor environmental sanitation, unlawful exploitation of fossil fuel resources, oil spillage, gas flaring and many other challenges relating to oil exploration and production. The environmental challenges are mostly aggravated by poverty and rapid increase in human population.
These problems are distributed across the country based on the prevailing geological, vegetal, hydrological or climatic condition of a region. For instance desert encroachment is a major problem in the Sahel vegetation region of Nigeria. The problem is mostly widespread in the Northeastern part of the country and is partly responsible for the loss of grazing reserves and obliteration of grazing routes, which is directly linked to pastoralists-farmers conflicts. Furthermore, associated problems of drought and vegetation loss which threaten food security are obvious in Northwest and Northeastern states. Also, coastal and gully erosions are peculiar to some states in the southern parts of the country which threaten land availability for farming and settlements. Furthermore, the problem of flooding caused due to climate change is prevalent along the banks of Rivers Gongola, Taraba, and some parts of Jigawa state. Other areas affected areas include South East coastal plains, the Cross Rivers basin, the Eastern Scarp lands, and the Niger Delta. Problems that are peculiar to the urban centers are overcrowding, crimes, insecurity, outbreak of diseases, solid wastes, poor sanitation and hygiene, water scarcity, traffic congestion, and pollution of all types. Similarly, the rural areas are faced with the challenges of open defecation, poor facilities for waste collection and disposal, dangerous agricultural practices, loss of farmland, soil erosion, inadequate sanitation, as well as insufficient amenities and social infrastructure. Moreover, the oil producing areas like Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta etc. are challenged by the problems of oil spillage, siltation of water bodies, over fishing, land degradation, biodiversity loss, increased watershed instability, flooding, reduction in soil productivity as well as extinction of rare species of flora and fauna. Subsequently, loss of soil fertility, bad land and dereliction are the major challenges in the mining regions of Jos, Kogi, Zamfara, Enugu, Itakpe, Nkalagun and Ijero. Global warming is responsible for the climate change which we are experiencing presently. It is the continued build – up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases which include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chloro-fluorocarbons (CFCs) among others trap the solar radiant energy within the atmosphere and re-radiate it back toward the earth surface and their overall effects bring about abnormal increase in the planet temperature.
The major human activities that cause global warming are industrial revolution, burning fossil fuel, mining, bush burning and deforestation. Accordingly this global warming led to the rise in sea water level leading to soil erosion, flooding and droughts. Ozone layer covers the entire planet and protects life on earth by absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiations from the sun. Recently, it was found that Ozone Layer depletion was even greater than predicted. The pollution of the atmosphere from the release of CFCS gases causes the depletion of the ozone layer and this result in environmental degradation. According to the latest version of National Security Strategy 2019, a document released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), General Babagana Monguno, Nigeria is not located within the major seismic zones of the world, but over the years, several earth tremors have occurred across the country with the latest happening in Mpape-Abuja in September 2018. These environmental threats undermine national security and underscore the need for adequate containment strategies and contingency plans. The government established Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) to control the Nigerian environment, its resources exploitation and management.
But field observation revealed that environmental degradation is growing at a rate worse than the pre FEPA period. Thus, solution to these problems require going beyond the strategies and objectives of FEPA. However, the major remedies to the environmental challenges in Nigeria are environmental education, governance of nature, formulation and implementation of stronger laws or/and penalties, as well as the use of environmentally sound technology for the monitoring of the environment. Ya’u Mukhtar writes from Madobi in Kano state. He can be reached via; [email protected], +2348062662147