By Ademola Orunbon
African continent, with the richest natural resources and the youngest population on the planet, faces serious development challenges. The environment, probably the most important among the challenges, is linked to issues of energy, transport, waste management, climate change, deforestation, soil degradation and decline of biodiversity.
In many areas, there are also issues of pollution, lack of irrigation and drinking water, and threats of unsustainable urbanization. The response to all these challenges is Going Green. It’s a process whereby Africa can achieve sustainable development and, by effectively drawing on its vast resources, including the young and dynamic population, rapidly turning into valuable human capital which is the crucial factor in the development process.
That supports the Ogun State government, under the leadership of Senator Ibikunle Amosun when he said that his administration would leave behind landmark legacies that will stand the test of time. Then in his speech three years ago at a two-day workshop organized by the Office of the First Lady, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun and Ministry of Environment on Tree Planting tagged “Ogun State Going Green”, he said that the policy is to sensitize the people of the state, the values and benefits of tree planting in their environments apart from its beautification of environment.
Planting trees also contributes to reducing the harmful products, avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing waste and pollution-thereby contributing to an improved ecosystem (securing clean water, flood protection and biodiversity).
Sadly, many people do not understand what going green is all about. In a keynote address, the initiator of the project, Mrs. Olufunso Amosun noted that the international conference and workshop would highlight simple but important steps that should be taken to reduce adverse environmental effect, save money and make people live happier and healthier lives.
She said the programme would be a pathway to solar energy, turning waste to wealth as well as other relevant aspects that would help create wealth and at the same time provide healthy and sustainable development in the state.
The First Lady said that in Nigeria, lack of concrete knowledge and understanding of environmental issues and the lack of access to funds to drive environmental initiatives are challenges facing the country, emphasising that the level of environmental awareness is still at its bintaency stage. In practice, going green means adopting basic principles such as reducing pollution and conserving resources. Others are protecting the earth’s ecological balance, recycling what you can and many others.
The Ogun State Government first flagged off the “Going Green” advocacy campaign on April 20, 2013 by going on an awareness walk, followed by a tree planting exercise which, indeed, is a milestone. Awareness and enlightenment are key to the advocacy campaign.
In his opening address, the governor. Amosun condemned the nonchalant attitude of man towards his environment. He said that in the attempt to provide housing, build roads and lay pipes for water and gas, people cut down trees without making efforts to replace them.
It means adjusting policy options and business models, which will lead to higher economic efficiency and corporate responsibilities. With appropriate regulatory environment, companies will pursue profit in more sustainable ways, making environmental and economic benefits equally important.
These important goals will also be achieved by creating green enterprises that tap into new markets with green products and services. While searching for its own development paradigm, Ogun State has come up with original and innovative approaches, being aware of its potential and limitations, as well as benefitting from several good practice cases and experiences from all corners of the world. In view of this, the State government revisited the issue and revived it by setting up “Green Ogun” project by the Governor to deliberate and formulate plans that will help to solve problems of illegal parking and high traffic congestion currently being experienced along Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
The project was based on the governor’s passion for a clean and attractive environment. To work assiduously and have a good outcome, the project comprised of nine members when it was set up but to deliver on time. It was further increased to eighteen members to ensure effective execution of the project with the Commissioner for Forestry, Chief Kolawole Lawal, as the Chairman.
Their responsibilities include curbing the activities that are detrimental to a healthy environment as well as elimination of illegal trailer parks on the road to ensure free flow of traffic on the highways.
Though, Africa has the chance to avoid certain mistakes committed in the past by the industrialized countries. Ogun State government is taking the bull by the horns in introducing tree planting across the state in order to combat the menace to the ecosystem. In confronting the environmental challenges in most responsible way, Ogun State is applying creatively all the available resources, knowledge and experience in tackling the future challenges that might occur in the State.
Clean technologies, along with the innovation and entrepreneurship associated with green industries, will not only accelerate Africa’s development, but also increase African competitiveness in the global markets, as well as attract Foreign Direct Investment needed to generate economic growth and job creation.
Orunbon writes from Abeokuta.