The Correlation between Deepened Poverty and Environmental Degradation
Although endowed with natural and human resources, almost half (48%) of Nigeria’s population live below the international poverty line of $2 per day. This half is underserved, socially and financially excluded from decent social services meant for human development. The poor population is concentrated in rural areas and urban slums where they largely depend on the environment for their daily needs such as water, energy, food and shelter.
Consequently, deterioration of environmental resources and pollution only worsens the case for this vulnerable group. How is that so? You may ask, let’s explore some of the environmental threats prone to this demographic and its effects on deepened poverty.
Deforestation is the baring of land. It is caused by the permanent cutting down of trees for economic use or to create room for other activities to take place. Deforestation is a major cause of desert encroachment in Northern Nigeria; where formerly arable land is turned to a barren, dry land with little or no vegetation and surface water as a result of deforestation, bush burning, etc.
As much as we need the trees or space where the trees where, so much more are we also creating room for increased evaporation which lowers the availability of groundwater, which in turn affect soil productivity which the poor populace depend on for drinking, livelihood and food production. Internal displacement or migration of people are sometimes associated with this.
Land Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that causes adverse change. This could be natural or fueled by human activities such as indiscriminate dumping of waste and underground spillage. Land Pollution generally is an eyesore and leads to loss of aesthetic beauty, contamination of groundwater and soil. Open dumps are breeding space for disease-carrying insects and rodent. Open dumps although widespread across Nigeria, they are mostly found in rural and low-income settlements as waste are brought from cities to be dumped in rural and urban poor communities. That means the masses in such areas are open to health issues associated with open dumps such as malaria, diarrhoea, headaches, typhoid and cholera. Although these illnesses are curable, thousands of people die yearly because they do not have access to good health care facilities.
Air & Water Pollution is prevalent in the Niger delta area. Due to decades of oil exploitation for energy needs air in this region carries black soot while water bodies are covered in oil despite livelihood in this area depending mostly on the environment.
With activities such as fishing and farming being the major source of livelihood, millions of people in the region are devasted as the environment gets degraded.
Flooding is a natural event or occurrence where a piece of typically dry land suddenly gets submerged underwater. Each time there are more rains than the drainage system can take, then flooding happens.
Flooding can be a result of heavy rain over a very short period or sustained light rain. When this happens low-income settlements where there are no properly constructed drainages or whose drainages are covered in waste are prone to flooding. Flooding also comes with stagnant water which breeds diseases while also disturbing farming activities.
It is important to note that not only the poor rely on the environment for their needs; all economic activities are directly or indirectly dependent on the environment and in the event of environmental degradation we all suffer the consequence, however, the most vulnerable populace are the poor who do not have access to common palliatives and access to basic amenities.
A call for economic justice is a call for environmental sustainability and a call for environmental justice is a call for economic growth.
By: Ekwere Blessing