The reported depletion of not less than 60percent of Nigeria’s flagship Ekuri community forest in Akamkpa local government area of Cross River State is generating uncertainty and fears.
A non-governmental organization in the State, Worthy Association for Tackling Environmental Ruins (WATER) that is into conservation, sustainable forest management, climate change and working particularly with Ekuri community in the conservation of Ekuri forest raised the concerns penultimate week.
Raising the alarm on the depletion in a statement, Programme Coordinator of WATER, Chief Edwin Ogar said if nothing urgent is done by the state government, the international community and the general public, “in next two years the remaining 40 percent of the Ekuri community forest will be wiped away.
“Ekuri forest, as we all know, has a very good history of conservation over the years, making it the best communally managed forest in the whole of West Africa, which had attracted International recognition by United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) in 2004, recognising Ekuri as biodiversity hotspot, as well as the community using the Ekuri forest to ensure that poverty is reduced and the forest is managed properly.
“Government should take responsibility in ensuring that the environment is sustained because if they do not, they will bear high cost of health issues because the absence of environmental services also causes a lot of issues. Various old and new diseases will come up and government has no resources to finance these health issues that will come up. The forest plays a very crucial role in terms of stabilising the nation because firstly, it is a source of economic survival both to government and individuals”.
Another private company, Ezemac International Limited, with Chief Ezenwa Daniel Igwe as its Executive Officer, said “in less than two years, the forest would be gone, irrespective of the size because already, the other side of the forest on old Ekuri axis is almost gone, logging there was done by more than 100 individual loggers and the community did not have the capacity to stop them.
“Ekuri is a minority community that can do little or nothing to stop them because the financial and technical capacity, in terms of raising resources to sustain such a matter, is not there.
“We have 33,600 hectares of forest. The logging has taken more than 60 percent and what is left is an estimated 40 percent and going by the current rate of deforestation, in less than two years, the forest will be gone and only then would it dawn on us the need to have protected that forest because the issue of water scarcity in not just Ekuri but communities downstream, would arise.”