Bush burning: NCF, BRISIN, other stakeholders rally for more proactive measures

bush burning
bush burning

WORRIED by the negative impact of the incidence of bush burning across the country, stakeholders have called for more proactive measures to curtail the menace.

They spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) across some South West states and Kwara.

In Abeokuta, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) called for the adoption of standard best practices in farming to check the negative impacts of crude processes in agricultural production.

The Lead, Climate Action Programme of NCF, Mr Solomon Adefolu, who decried the rising rate of bush burning across the nation, said the development portended a great risk for the nation.

The NCF official described bush burning as an old and crude method of opening up new space or farmland for planting, expressing concern that the practice had persisted even in modern times.

“It is unfortunate that most of our famers rely on inherited knowledge from their farming parents for agricultural production,” he said.

He said that the practice constituted a great threat to the realisation of the UN framework convention on Climate Change to which Nigeria is a signatory.

Adefolu also described the practice as a limiting factor in the achievement of the Paris Club Accord signed by Nigeria aimed at reducing carbon emission by 20 per cent unconditionally and 40 per cent conditionally by Year 2030.

The climate expert noted that the practice often led to reduction in the air quality in environments where bush were burnt with attendant health challenges like respiratory and cancerous infections.

Proferring solutions, Adefolu called for adoption of modern and eco-friendly methods of farming.

He stressed the need for the nation to put in place a strong and effective agricultural extension service system to provide quality education for the farmers in modern farming methods.

Adefolu suggested the planting of nutrient – fixing crops like melon in succeeding years for the restoration of perceived lost nutrients in soil.

“Many farmers often move to clear new forests through burning in the belief that the land they used for farming in the preceding year must have lost its nutrients.

“Such farmers need to be educated and encouraged to plant legume crops the following year to restore the soil nutrients and through that they could continue to recycle the land instead of moving to other spaces,” he said.

He also called for the enforcement of the Climate Smart Agriculture, which according to him, is a system introduced by the Federal Government which did not require bush burning in clearing new farmlands.

The NCF official also identified the herdsmen as an important group to be engaged in checking the menace of bush burning.

According to him, they often burn bush for fresh grasses to spring up for their cattle.

An official of the Ogun Ministry of Environment, who pleaded for anonymity, also told NAN that there were penalties stipulated for bush burning in the state.

“The state has laws and penalties for defaulters, but there are many angles to it because we give penalty to some and to some they may have to face prosecution.

“We have individual and corporate penalties. “We fine individuals not more than N250,000 while corporate bodies are charged not more than N500,000,” he said.

Dr Misbau Lawal, the Health Coordinator of Basic Registry and Information Systems in Nigeria (BRISIN), said that waste management agencies must find alternatives to discarding waste.

He told NAN in Ilorin that the initiative included converting methane gas from manure into electricity.

According to him, bush burning during the harmattan can cause the extinction of wildlife and vegetation as well as destruction of organic value of the soil.

Lawal said that bush burning ccould increase emissions of greenhouse gases causing climate change and global warming.

He explained that this ultimately depletes the ozone layer, increasing the sun rays on the skin.

According to him, the health effects of bush burning leads to significant increase in asthma and pulmonary inflammation.

Lawal said there was an increase in cardiovascular disease as bush burning increases in some communities across the country.

In Ibadan, an environmentalist, Mr Kehinde Daniel, said that indiscriminate bush burning is detrimental not only to the health of individuals but also to the environment.

Daniel said that bush burning leads to air pollution and pollutants like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

“Bush burning is the indiscriminate setting ablaze of the vegetation cover and the burning down of grassland and forest resources by fire.

“Indiscriminate bush burning is a practice carried out by farmers before planting because and the cheapest means of clearing out the files and farmlands.

“However, uncontrolled bush burning not only affects the environment and contributes to climate change but has adverse effects on human and environment health.

“Bush burning distorts the ecological balance and results in increased atmospheric carbon dioxide consequently resulting in the earth’s atmosphere heating up and what we call global warming.

“The ensuing temperature differential also destroys vital fauna and microbial activities that are necessary for sustained fertility and aeration.

“Indiscriminate bush burning releases toxic elements to the environment.

“Changes in global climate lead to droughts and high temperatures.

“All these have implications on economic development and health of the people,” he said.

According to him, bush burning can cause lead poisoning in humans.

“The ash residue left after bush burning leaches into the soil as toxic chemicals such as lead.

“This is absorbed by plants which are consumed by humans.

“Lead is known to be highly carcinogenic and can cause kidney diseases,” he said.

A researcher with Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) , Ibadan, Mrs Titi Oguntoye, said bush burning often causes great damage to forest cover and forest reserves.

Oguntoye said that bush burning could result in careless uncontrollled fire that could turn into wildfires and destroy forests.

“Natural resources like timbers and plants of exotic value are burnt and destroyed during forest fires.

“Forest fires damage forests that would otherwise remove carbon dioxide from the air.

“Destruction of forest reserves and forest covers result in serious depletion and scarcity of natural resources.

“It will also lead to natural habitat loss to species that make the forest their home, ” she said.

Oguntoye called for public sensitisation to the dangers of indiscriminate bush burning and also for aggressive tree planting to reverse the damages.

Mr Oladepo Atanda, Osun Commissioner for Environment and Sanitation told NAN that a law was in place in the state prohibiting bush burning.

Atanda, however, said it was difficult to monitor when and where the perpetrators engage in bush burning.

He said the government remained determined to tackle bush burning because it violates emission control laws, adding that emission is one of the problems affecting the ozone layer and precipitating climate change.

“We have a law that is disuading people from burning bushes but you know the bushes are many, you can’t see all.

“But anybody caught burning bushes indiscriminately would be punished according to the laws, ” Atanda said.

Also speaking, Dr Olasiji Olamiju, the Special Adviser on Public Health to Gov. Gboyega Oyetola said bush burning endangers human lives and causes respiratory infection which could lead to death, if not properly handled.

Olamiju said bush burning needed to be reduced to the barest minimum because of the danger it poses to human health .

According to him, aside the health implication of bush burning, bush burning can chase bush rat into residential areas promoting the chances of Lassa fever.

Olamiju appealed to residents to desist from the act of bush burning to prevent health hazards associated with it.

Mr Olusola Adediji, the Chairman of Joint Health Sector Union ( JOHESU) at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, also condemned bush burning in strong terms, saying “its effect on the ecosystem is very devastating.”

According to Adediji, bush burning could also cause low productivity of farm produce because it is capable of making the soil to lose its ability to absorb and retain water.

“After bush burning, the top layer of soil may become water repellent. This causes rain to drain off the soil without permeating into the ground and the quality of the soil is affected as well.

“Such soil may take a long time to recover and this has great effects on growth and output of plants on such soil,” he said.

He added that the loss of shade that the bushes once provided would likely lead to evaporation.

The JOHESU chairman said that bush burning is a major cause of air pollution and harmful to human existence, adding that it could also cause the depletion of ozone layer.

Adediji said that existence of games could also be affected by bush burning, “and thereby depriving us of the benefits of game reserve.”

He, therefore, asked government to evolve policies with stringent punishment to dissuade those fond of burning bush in Nigeria.

An environmental expert, Mrs Olayemi Aladeye, who spoke with NAN in Okitipupa, also warned against the unabated practice of bush burning.

Aladeye, the Head of Environmental and Health Department, Okitipupa Local Government Council of Ondo State, attributed lots of health hazards such as lung cancer, respiratory problems and aggravated asthma to bush burning.

She said that bush burning had led to series of ecological.degredation, environmental pollution and agricultural defects for farmers.

Aladeye added that many people have also lost their houses, farmlands and other valuables as a result of bush burning due to ignorance.

She urged government to ensure forest guards were up to the task of arresting perpetrators of this criminal activity as other people’s valuables might be affected through their ignorance.

“People should desist from the act of bush burning because many health, environmental and physical hazards are attached to this practice.

“I think the government should ensure our forest guards arrest perpetrators of this crime because they are not the only ones involved,” she said.

In the same vein, the General Manager of Ekiti State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA),Mr Olajide Borode, has warned residents against acts that lead to fires.

Borode said that infernos affected about 43 persons including farm owners in the state between December 2019 and January 20, 2020 alone.

The Director of Environmental Health Services in Oye Local Government Council of Ekiti, Mr Michael Ijalusi, said that bush burning had negatively affected humans, animals and natural resources.

Ijalusi said that in most cases, bush burning causes extinction of animals destroys the basic nutrients of the soil.

He, however, appealed to government at all levels to launch a sensitisation programme against bush burning.(NAN)

– Feb. 7, 2020 @ 17:25 GMT |

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