The need to preserve the environment in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Failure to do that invites conflicts, depletion of ecosystems, migrations etc. The country is already experiencing various forms of environmental degradations1.
The northern part of the country is facing extreme conditions of deforestation, drought, desertification and erosion2. The vast arable lands are lost due to overgrazing, unsustainable farming methods, deforestation and Sahara Desert enncroahment3. Other parts of the country witness soil and water pollution from oil spillage and industrial processes, deforestation, extreme weather conditions, flooding and loss of biodiversity2. The causes are largely anthropogenic which are now being exacerbated by climate change.
Keeping up with all the environmental degradations and marking them for protection would be an arduous task. However, achieving the feat, especially digitally, would mean all environmental issues are brought to the fore and attention of all. Hence, invigorating people and organizations to take actions.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has in recent time developed a national tracking programme of public health issues4. It is called the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Programme (NEPHTP). Up to 26 states in the United States developed local tracking platforms that are embedded in the CDC NEPHTP. The state of Lousianna’s Tracking Programme mapped the health effects and reach of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon BP oil spillage as well as to inform other relevant authorities how to help5.
In the absence of any environmental tracking platform in Nigeria, I propose a Nigeria Environmental Tracking Platform (NET-P). A community-led initiative to identify, map and records the environmental problems their land is experiencing and also tracks and identifies the players trying to solve them would be an effective way of preserving the environment in Nigeria. It also mentions and educates users the consequences of not protecting the environment.
It is a regional innovation project that motivates people to solve the environmental challenges their locality is facing. Thereafter, any solution implemented by the people is indexed and properly elaborated in a manner to allow for replication and implementation elsewhere. It’s like an encyclopedia of regional environmental problems, the solutions needed and taken by others.
This initiative builds on the state of Louisiana Tracking Programme. The latter lacks functions of suggested solutions and does not catalogue solutions taken for easier reference. It also doesn’t rank the problems requiring urgent interventions. NET-P would be quite diverse, taking into consideration the environmental priorities of different regions. Different regions require different environment solutions; afforestation, land reclamation, water conservation efforts etc. The greater the need for the solution in the community, the more recognition it gets.
It would rank solutions based on social, economic and environmental benefits of in that location. Availability would be in different languages and easily accessible, with limited or no internet connection. An economic tree such as the baobab planted in dry Sahel region of north western Nigeria to combat desertification and improve livelihood cannot be ranked on the same level if it is planted in the oil polluted south-south Nigeria requiring remediation and land reclamation efforts.
It can also be used as an environmental reporting platform. One can report unsafe dumping in an area or burning of items that cause air pollution. Thus, organizations tackling such problems would become aware of it and choose the best action to take.
According to a study of over 3,425 environmental projects implemented in the UK under the ‘Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities’, grassroots community-led initiatives have been more successful than projects with top-down approaches led by local authorities. Grassroots projects reveal how the community is committed to solving their problems. The solutions were needs-based; known and identified by the community themselves. They were also more successful because they enjoyed participation of experts from different fields6.
Such a community initiative can spur different people into being responsible for the well-being of the environment they live in. It would promote efforts taken by other people, encourage and allow for replication of solution elsewhere. It would strengthen unity and cohesion in and between communities, enhance teamwork, bring synergy, foster peace between citizens and above all, help Nigerians, environmental organizations and the government in preserving Nigeria’s environment.
- United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs. Institutional aspects of sustainable development in Nigeria. http://www.un.org/esa/agenda21/natlinfo/countr/nigeria/inst.htm accessed on 20th May 17
- United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs. National Environmental Problems, National Implementation of Agenda 21, Nigeria Country Profile, November 1997 <http://www.un.org/esa/earthsummit/nigeriac.htm> accessed on 20th May 17
- Sunday Gabriel. Tackling the Effect of Desertification. Daily Trust. June 21, 2009 <https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/sunday/index.php/feature/3346-tackling-the-effect-of-desertification> accessed on 20th May 17
- Centre for Disease Control, National Environmental Public Health Tracking Programme <https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/tracking/> accessed on 20th May 17
- Centre for Disease Control, Louisiana Tracking Platform, Sharing Our Stories: NCEH’s Impact on Public Health <https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/stories/trackingla.html> accessed on 20th May 17
- Community Development Foundation, How do community groups make life better. Paper 5, improving the physical environment, October 2014, Page 2. <http://www.cdf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/physical-environment.pdf> accessed on 20th May 17