Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Akwa Ibom State government has stressed its readiness to turn wetlands in the state into wealth lands.
The state Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources, Mr Ekong Sampson who said this in his address at the marking of the 2020 World Wetlands Day in Uyo, explained that the essence of the day was to raise awareness and highlight the importance of wetlands to man and the environment, as well as to encourage people to consciously protect and preserve wetlands.
Describing wetlands to include marshes, freshwater and mangrove swamps, ponds, deltas as well as coral reefs, called “mkpodioho”, “okpuk”, “ndioho”, or “Ibiok” in local Ibibio dialect, Ekong said this year’s theme: “Wetlands and Biodiversity”, was very apt as it would provide a unique opportunity to bring to light the importance of wetlands biodiversity.
“Considering the rich biodiversity of these wetlands, the state has adopted the slogan: ‘Wetlands are Wealth Lands’.
“Yes, there abound opportunities of wealth in our wetlands! There is a need therefore to convert these seemingly ‘wastelands’ to profitable/beneficial uses in their natural state,” Ekong Sampson said.
While emphasising that the state government was gathering data on wetlands in the state to enable it identify viable opportunities where wetlands could be used to further promote agriculture, tourism and intervention in infrastructural development. Sampson, however reiterated that climate change has natural effect on wetlands, and the vanishing earth
He charged communities in the state to see wetlands not as superstitious sites, but as veritable opportunities for economic diversification.
Such opportunities for wealth creation in the wetlands, according to him, include all-year-round cultivation of grains such as rice, millet, corn and vegetables to boost food sufficiency and sources of income; availability of local delicacies such as edible frogs, mushrooms, periwinkles, clams, and oysters as some of the articles synonymous with local wetlands.
The commissioner maintained that wetlands also have centres for recreation and tourism potentials if developed and to communities and the private sector to maximize the agricultural benefits embedded in wetlands in various locations in the state.
Speaking on behalf of Uyo indigenous community leaders and members who were present at the function, Mr. Iniekong Bassey Ebong thanked the Hon. Commissioner for ensuring that they were made to participate in this year’s event, while citing development as chief cause of environmental imbalance currently experienced not only in our state, but globally.
The village chairman of Ikot Etido Oku therefore, called on government to seek measures of recreating natural wetlands for the people.