… As FG worries over illegal mining moves to prosecute offenders***
The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu on Friday said the proposed Inter-Basin Water Transfer from Congo River into Lake Chad was possible, expensive and would require more consultations.
Adamu said this at a Media Forum, with the theme, `Engage, Educate and Empower Nigerians on the Legacy Project of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources in Abuja.
He said massive interventions ongoing in the basin, had been largely impacted by the effects of climate change.
The newsmen report that no fewer than 40 million people depend on the natural resources of Lake Chad.
He hinted that Nigeria was currently working to improve the hydraulicity of River Chari and Logone through dredging and improvement of the river banks.
He noted that this was crucial as environmental challenges like silting, and new flood plains due to climate change were affecting the lake.
“The inter-basin water transfer is supposed to traverse many countries, we are taking water from the Congo Basin and transferring it to another 400 km into Chad, it is technically feasible.
“But it is very expensive.
It requires a lot of studies and we are going to be using the existing rivers, so it requires a lot of planning.
But what we are doing is to start with the low-hanging fruit.
“So what we want to do is to improve the hydraulicity of river chari and river Logone, the two rivers are the ones that bring water into lake chad.
“In addition to the climate change issue, even when you have good rain, the water just flows into the banks and creates new floodplains rather than flow directly into the lake.
“So it’s a lot of technical issues to deal with before you finally talk about the money, and the money of course, it’s a lot of billions of dollars.
“One of the good things is that it has been taken as a PanAfrican project, but even at African Union, they are now talking about it seriously.’’
Speaking on the ministry’s dam projects, the minister said the River Basin Development Authorities were being revitalized to deliver on their mandates.
He noted that the Songhai model, as an integrated agricultural practice was introduced to boost agricultural production and achieve integrated rural development.
He said since his tenure, 253 farmlands have been leased to the private sector for commercial farming while 42 small dams have been constructed across the nation.
Newsmen report that in 2017, the federal government successfully conducted a feasibility study toward recharging Lake Chad through an inter-basin water transfer from the Congo basin at an estimated cost of 15 billion dollars.
This is a part of the projects envisioned to transform the region into a more stable economic hub as the counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram in the Northeast draw to a close.
In another development, the Federal Government says it is worried over illegal mining activities in the country and reiterates its commitment to prosecute people who fail to comply with extant environmental laws.
The Director-General, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Prof. Aliyu Jauro, made this known while briefing newsmen on the agency`s activities on Thursday in Abuja.
Jauro said NESREA was saddled with the responsibility of enforcing all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in the country.
He said the agency also prohibited the processes and use of equipment or technology that undermined environmental quality.
Jauro said the agency had recently been inundated with several complaints on the resurgence of the activities of artisanal miners in the country.
He said the situation had raised fears of degradation of the environment, destruction of farmlands and contamination of water sources, especially the Osun River.
The NESREA boss said such mining activities were not new in the area because the state is sited on a schist-belt that is richly endowed with mineral resources such as gold, tourmaline, and tantalite, among others.
He said that the sites, however, attracted the artisanal miners, adding that the river also played important roles in the area.
“The river is a key source of water for humans, plants and animals within the area, and it has an international interest because it passes through the Osun-Osogbo sacred grove.
“The area is designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
“Indeed, the river is reputed for its cultural, religious and economic significance,’’ he said.
The director-general said that the agency had carried out sensitization workshops for artisanal miners drawn from different parts of the state.
He said the miners were enlightened on the effects of the activities on human health and the environment and were encouraged to carry out their activities in a more environmentally sound manner.
Jauro said that a total of 300 full kits of personal protective equipment were distributed to the miners after the workshop.
“According to him, following the recent reports, the agency has intensified its compliance monitoring of the affected areas which revealed a large presence of Chinese miners.
“The Chinese miners with the aid of excavators and related equipment, mine and wash the minerals along or close to river courses.
“There is also high activity of artisanal miners who scavenge surface minerals at abandoned mine pits and wash them in nearby rivers, most of which flow into the river.
“The river has become more turbid with reddish coloration from the disturbance of mining and washing into the rivers,’’ he said.
Jauro said the situation was worrisome since the cultural practices at the Osun grove required contact with the water and people also use the water daily in their homes.
He said that the agency had conducted an investigation in which the water and soil were collected for laboratory analysis to determine the level of pollution of the activities.
“When the investigation is concluded, the provisions of the National Environmental Mining and Processing of coal, ores and industrial minerals Regulations, 2009 will be invoked against those involved in the activities.
“This will definitely mean that perpetrators will have their facilities sealed and they will be charged to court for an environmental violation.
“As citizens, we have very important roles to play in protecting the environment and the agency continually educates Nigerians on the agency’s roles and responsibilities.
Jauro, however, urged Nigerians to support the government to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment.