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Water Stakeholders in Nigeria moves to secure River Ethiope

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Ugochukwu Iwuchukwu

Stakeholders in Water and Environmental Right agencies have continued their push for the protection of River Ethiope in Delta State, Nigeria.

The stakeholders who gathered in Abraka, Delta State during the second Stakeholders Consultative Conference on Rivers Ethiope Basin also declared their support for the protection and recognition of the Rights of Rivers Ethiope.

The Convener of the Conference and the President of the Rivers Ethiope Trust Foundation RETFON, IRIKEFE DAFE said the aim of the conference was to present a programme of action for the right of Rivers Ethiope Basin.

Irikefe Dafe, who is also a Member of UN HWN Expert Knowledge Platform, while presenting a draft bill for River Ethiope Basin said he wants the River to get the much-needed law backing its protection and conservation.

He said the desire of the RETFON is to promote sustainable development of Nigerian rivers using Rivers Ethiope as a pilot.

”Free-flowing, living rivers are an essential, life-giving feature of our natural and human environment. They are the arteries and veins of our Mother Planet Earth. They fulfill a multitude of ecological, economic, spiritual and aesthetic needs and wants. Nationwide, these invaluable rivers are now degraded by hundreds of indiscriminate human activities, leading to flooding of huge areas of the nation’s most beautiful and ecologically rich habitats and homes and land of tens of millions of people”.

”It is our sincere desire to promote sustainable development of Nigerian rivers starting with River Ethiope. Such a desire can only be realized with the efforts and co-operation of everyone. We wish to stress that the measure of your effort and co-operation or contribution in this direction should not be determined by whether your business activities affect rivers negatively OR not, for the whole world is a ”Web” and every one of us is a functional strand in it. Significantly, whatever we do to the web we invariably do to ourselves”.

The Head of Training, National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna, Dr. MARTIN EDUVIE said the Institute would provide the necessary logistics to enable the protection of River Ethiope.

Also speaking, a Lecturer at the Delta State University Abraka, Dr. UFUOMA AKPOVWOVWO during her presentation called for more awareness among community dwellers and groups within the Rivers Ethiope Basin.

Dr. UFUOMA AKPOVWOVWO said more awareness will enable community dwellers to protect the River.

She also called on stakeholders at the conference to design an effective way of tackling the issues of flooding

”The restoration and conservation of the environment surrounding the river need to be addressed as a means of effectively tackling the issue of flooding, in particular. This will also help to cushion the effects and impacts of climate change on the people and their livelihoods”.

”Environmental restoration, in the form of the planting of indigenous tree species, will aid in the reduction of impermeable surfaces and hence increase water infiltration into the soil. In addition, regular programmes focused on environmental awareness and education should be organized and carried out within and among communities/schools within the River Ethiope vicinity”. she said.

Tourists taking a boat ride at River Ethiope

CONFERENCE RESOLUTIONS

At the end of the one-day brainstorming and deliberations, key observations from the conference’s various sessions were aggregated and noted as follows:

a) River Ethiope provides immense social, ecological, economic, spiritual and cultural values to the 1.7 million people living within its catchment;

b) That River Ethiope Basin has been witnessing uncoordinated and unsustainable development activities for years;

c) The existing legal systems have been unable to protect River Ethiope;

d) Weak collaboration and partnership in data management to help in informed decision making and policy/program formulation

e) Weak and inadequate enforcement of existing laws/regulations and Urban Development Plan;

f) Decline in the biodiversity and water quality/quantity of River Ethiope;

g) Lack of Watershed Management Plan in the basin;

h) River Ethiope is threatened by climate change impact, siltation, flood, pollution and unsustainable urbanization, mining and farming; and

i) Inadequate funding for structural and non-structural for River Ethiope basin management

j) Inadequate public awareness and education on the values and problems facing River Ethiope

k) Lack of youths and women participation

RECOMMENDATIONS

Consequently, the conference made the following recommendations:

a) RETFON should ensure that the draft Rights of River Ethiope Bill 2020 is reviewed and properly crafted before its presentation to the Delta State House of Assembly by a combined team of Royal fathers from the basin and along with declaration on River Ethiope signed on behalf of the participants as indicated in the declaration sheets;

b) That Rights of River Ethiope Bill 2020 campaign should be concentrated only in Delta State and later be extended to other rivers in Delta State, Nigeria, and Africa;

c) RETFON in collaboration with NWRI Kaduna and other relevant bodies to undertake cumulative impact assessment and baseline studies for River Ethiope Basin;

d) Delta State Government should ensure strict compliance to environmental laws and urban development planning regulations to regulate construction and habitations in River Ethiope Basin;

e) That the proposed activities leading to the signing of GMoU should be given time frame;

f) There is a need to update existing data on River Ethiope for easy accessibility to users;

g) That NWRI Kaduna should provide all necessary research and capacity building supports to RETFON towards the sustainable development of River Ethiope basin;

h) All impacted sites within the River Ethiope Basin should be identified and restored while other areas of the basin not yet impacted should be protected from further abuse;

i) A Special trust fund to be established for River Ethiope through the instrument of Global Memorandum of Understanding;

j) RETFON should embark on more awareness-raising activities on the values and health of River Ethiope;

k) All point and non-point pollution sources on River Ethiope basin should be identified and mitigated;

l) All existing and new projects on River Ethiope basin to comply with relevant

environmental laws and regulations of the Federal and Delta State Governments;

m) RETFON to set up River Ethiope Basin Institute at Delta State University Abraka to act as centre of excellence for research and capacity building for River Ethiope basin;

n) River Ethiope waterway annual cleanup day to be set up and observe by all the communities and stakeholders within the river catchment; and

o) Recruit and establish “Friends of Ethiope River Basin” for inclusiveness and wide participation in protecting the Basin.

The theme of the conference is, Promoting Permanent Protection of River Ethiope and Boosting the participation of stakeholders in the granting of legal rights to River Ethiope.

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