Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Lagos eases its environmental burden by planting trees

By Ben Ezeamalu
July 25, 2009 03:40PMT

Some Lagos residents, like James Elemamba are fast appreciating the value of a green environment. Mr. Elemamba, who resides at Obalende, along with his mother operates a flower and tree shop in Ikoyi.

On this day, as he tend the flowers, a look of contentment spreads across his face. Over the years, he has come to treat the plants as part and parcel of his family.

To ensure that the plants receive the best, he wakes up at 5am every day, except on Sundays to water them.

In the face of accelerating climate change, the Lagos state government is hoping that other Lagosians will become as passionate about tree planting as Mr. Elemamba is. Indeed, in the last couple of years, Lagos has been wearing a new look as government's green revolution takes shape.

It started with the administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when loops and open spaces along major routes were cleared and beautified, along with tree planting.

A substantial reduction in the planet's forest cover over the centuries has been a major contributor to climate change, according to Carbon Positive, a UK-based firm that develops sustainable agro-forestry and bio-energy ventures in non-industrialized countries.

The firm also stated that tree planting helps in bolstering carbon dioxide absorption and storage, which helps to offset the loss of native forests and fights global warming.

Trees are important

"Trees have been scientifically proven to be very useful as the first line of defence in the fight against global warming as they absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and replenish the air with oxygen," said Muiz Banire, the Lagos State commissioner for the Environment, during the launch of the second edition of the state's tree planting campaign at Ajegunle, in the Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government area of the state.

On the occasion, the commissioner encouraged Lagos residents to join the crusade and complement the efforts of the state government in creating a healthy environment by planting trees at every given opportunity.

He listed the species of trees to be planted to include Terminalia montalis (Teak), Polyalthia iongifolia (Eucalyptus), and Pinus caribaea, Casuarina, Lagerstroemia species, Neem, Terbeboa, Yellow Phycus, Lypia, Flame of the forest, and Palm.

Economic trees

"Some of the trees listed are not indigenous African trees and may not adapt favourably in the tropics," said Olusola Adekanmbi, a lecturer at the Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Lagos.

"They should have picked trees that are already established in the tropics."

She said the Terminalia catappa (Tropical Almond or Umbrella Tree), a more tropical tree, would have been a better option than the ones chosen by the government. She also named other favourable species as Blighia sapida (Ackee) and Cassia spectabilis.

"It is not planting for beautification alone," the botany lecturer said. "Depending on the location, the trees should also be of economic value. Why can't we even plant mangoes or cashews? We should plant for food. Once there is enough food, you can then talk of beautification."

She also said that the government should involve, in the programme, researchers from educational institutions who could prescribe trees that would survive in the tropics and also be of economic value.

Replace cut down trees

The state government, in April, commissioned the reconstruction of Bourdillon, Alexander and Gerald roads, all in Ikoyi, Eti-Osa local government area. However, hundreds of trees flanking these roads had to give way for the project to come to fruition.

The state governor, Babatunde Fashola, said at times when it becomes unavoidable for trees to be felled, permission must be sought from the appropriate authorities while steps must be taken to replace the plants.

"Since it takes years for trees to mature, we insist that when a tree must, of necessity, be felled, ten trees should be planted in its place," Mr. Fashola said.

Reacting to the destruction, Mr. Elemamba said, "I don't really blame the government. If you want to expand a road, you will definitely have to remove any impediment."

But Mrs. Adekanmbi put the blame on poor urban planning. "If a road needs to be expanded in the future, then there may not be any need to plant trees near it," she said.

The state government has appealed to individuals, non-governmental organizations, and corporate bodies to make the culture of tree planting a daily affair.


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