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Thought Leadership Series

Valuing Water: Nigeria must tackle climate change to protect its water resources - WWD21

“Climate change is the environmental challenge of this generation, and it is imperative that we act before it’s too late.”- John Delaney.

Life is not possible without water.

As one of the most important substances on earth, water is an element that is useful to living and non-living things. It is used for agriculture, recreation, industry and hydroelectricity. Water plays a pivotal role in improving health outcomes.

Water covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface and continuously moves between the atmosphere, land and sea. This is the process that makes water available to us; it is called the water cycle.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

World Water Day is celebrated on the 22nd of March every year. The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Valuing Water’. Water is a vital resource that should be valued and protected. Research has revealed that climate change has an increasingly negative effect on the water cycle, water quantity and the quality of existing water resources.

The Need for Value — Paying Close Attention to the Effects of Climate Change
Climate change is a change in temperature and rainfall in a region over a period of time. It destroys water sources and as a result, destroys livelihoods and health. Human activities like burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) add enormous amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere.

Nigeria’s CO2 emissions was 100.2 million tons in 2019. President Muhammed Buhari signed the Paris Agreement in 2016 where he committed to ensuring the country’s greenhouse gas emissions reduces by 20% by the year 2030.

Impact of Climate Change on the Quantity and Quality of Water and on Health
Climate change causes drought, particularly in places that have less rainfall. When water sources dry up, clean water becomes difficult to find. This poses threats on agriculture and affects food production and hydroelectric power supply. Flooding occurs as a result of increased precipitation and intense rainstorms. Flooding transports large volumes of water and contaminants into waterbodies, resulting in untreated pollutants directly entering waterways. This is harmful to health with over 46 million Nigerians still practicing open defecation. A study published in 2019 to ascertain the impact of flood disasters in Nigeria showed that Ajegunle, a community highly susceptible to floods in Lagos State, lost children to diarrheal outbreaks, malaria and typhoid fever resulting from stagnant and polluted drinking water.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

The Need to Protect Water
As a nation we must protect water by reducing and mitigating the impact of climate change. Water needs to be protected as it travels around the world so that it maintains its quality and distribution. If we do not act now, the impact on our communities will be disastrous. We cannot make ‘new’ water, we need to protect the water that we already have so that man and the ecosystem can thrive. Now is the time to proffer solutions that will address the challenges of climate change before it is too late. 

Afforestation can help in addressing environmental degradation, particularly desertification, deforestation, erosion, and flooding as well as reducing the effects of climate change. The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with the ambition to grow an 8,000 km natural green hedge across the entire width of Africa, making it one of the world’s natural wonders.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

The National policy on Climate Change is the national document for climate activities in Nigeria. It identifies adaptation and mitigation interventions in key sectors in environment, agriculture, forestry, health, water resources, transport, ICT and communication that if properly implemented, can help to significantly promote low carbon in our environment and increase public awareness and involve private sector participation in tackling climate change. Advocates must continue to ask how well this policy is being implemented.

Nigeria must act quickly to enact evidence-based policies that address the threat of climate change on the nation’s bodies of water. There is a need to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases to minimise the magnitude of climate change in our environment.
  • Improve energy efficiency by reducing activities that increases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere such as flaring of gas.
  • Protect public health, development, security and land and water resources from the potential threats posed by climate change by encouraging multi-sectoral interventions.
  • At the Nigerian government level, implement actions to improve water quality, water supplies and flood management.
  • Bring all stakeholders together to find innovative ways to tackle climate change in Nigeria so that it does not get out of hand.
Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Climate Change is not a ‘foreign matter’, an ‘oyibo issue’ or a ‘problem for those that have food to eat’. It is a global issue and it is a Nigerian issue that is affecting Nigerian lives every single day. From the farmer in Delta State who suffers from contamination of the water he needs for irrigation by oil drilling residue, to the truck driver in Rivers State who drives through soot just to get to his destination on time. Climate change is a Nigerian issue. Its adverse impact on our water resources means we all must work to tackle it because water is life.

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