By Christian ABURIME
These days, topical issues such as climate change, environment and sustainable development are among the drivers of global conversations.
Sustainable development, especially, is indeed a valid concern about undertaking societal development in such a responsible manner that does not endanger the interests of future generations.
As the narrative evolves, enlightened societies now know that there cannot be sustainable development without sustainable environment. The two are inter-reliant. The natural environment in which socio-economic development occurs must be healthy and resilient enough to sustain development and foster human happiness into the future.
Of course, the real human happiness of living on planet earth lies in dynamics like environmental sustainability, not in crass materialism.
It is why Leo Tolstoy, the legendary Russian writer and philosopher, once said, “One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken.” One cannot but agree.
Hence, our natural environment needs priority preservation from threats and if already threatened and broken, it needs urgent reclamation.
In the quest by Governor Charles Soludo for realizing the vision of a smart, livable and prosperous Anambra State, the endgame is the happiness of Ndi Anambra. Yet, the perceptive professor-governor understands that his other focal solution policy pillars of security, law and order, infrastructure and economic transformation, human capital and social agenda, and governance with value system cannot yield the desired results without a sustainable environment as well.
This made him to take the issues of the environment and urban renewal in Anambra State very seriously as seen in the many environmentally-driven actions his government has embarked on in the past over one year now.
To admit the bitter truth about the state of our environment, Anambra State has for years had the unenviable moniker as the erosion capital of the world. As a matter of fact, about 35-40% of Anambra’s land space is under existential threat from erosion and flooding.
The sad reality is that Anambra has a mostly ferallitic soil structure which is loose and easily eroded into gullies. Therefore, the state is ravaged by the menace of gully erosion across its 181communities.
For instance, the mammoth erosion menace spanning Agulu, Nanka, and Oko, arguably the biggest in the world, has a cumulative length of 23 kilometers, an average depth of 143.69 meters, and an average width of 458.42 meters. This inevitably causes massive toll on human life, property and assets, forcing our people out of their homes and ancestral lands to become internally displaced persons. It is quite disheartening.
At the same time, the state has been grappling with open dumping of refuse which clogs the drainages, illegal structures along the waterways and other man-made environmental nuisances, which all naturally lead to perennial flooding.
So, how has the Soludo government been dealing with these intractable environmental challenges? A major thrust of the administration’s response strategy is hinged on creating a sustainable environment through clean, green, planned and sustainable communities, markets and cities.
First of all, the government developed a comprehensive Waste Management and Environmental Sustainability Plan, now enacted as law, to transform Anambra into the cleanest and greenest State in Nigeria.
Accordingly, a massive tree planting campaign (4,000 trees) was launched in major cities and towns of Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi to restore a natural environment. The government has a target of planting 1 million new trees and making tree planting a culture across the state. After all, a Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Beyond tree planting, the de-silting of drainage systems in urban centres to prevent flooding and damage to roads is ongoing. Efforts are also under way to control erosion by intensifying the development of housing solutions as well as providing pits where run-off water can collect.
In the case of flood control, the government effectively managed and survived the biggest flood crisis in 2022 that covered half of the state land for weeks, destroying lands, livelihoods, assets and public infrastructure.
As part of the journey towards improving urban development, this administration in October 2022 set up a new entity called the Anambra Urban Regeneration Council (AURC) to arrest the progressive degeneration of ‘chaotic slums’ in our urban areas.
The Council is currently working on Okpoko, Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi and Ekwulobia slums. In execution, the regeneration projects entail the removal of projection to regain proper setbacks, demolition and removal of dilapidated structures, desilting of drainages and provision of channels, provision of pedestrian walkways and cycling routes, tree planting and city beautification, and street marking, bus stop laybys, benches, waste bins, and so on.
Today, cities universally are the engines of economic growth and centres of innovation. However, rapid urbanization has often led to overcrowding, pollution, and social inequalities. The Soludo administration’s urban renewal initiatives are now renewing the Anambra landscape and revitalizing existing urban spaces while developing sustainable infrastructure.
By transforming dilapidated slum areas into vibrant, livable communities, the Soludo government is improving the quality of life for residents, enhancing social cohesion, and creating equitable opportunities for all.
In the long term, a sustainable environment and well-planned urban spaces that the government is fostering today will also have a direct impact on human health and well-being.
By promoting clean air through tree planting and access to green spaces, pollution-related health issues can be reduced, physical exercise will be encouraged, and mental well-being will be enhanced.
Furthermore, sustainable environment and urban regeneration initiatives can help create inclusive communities that prioritize the needs of all residents, including improved access to healthcare, education, and social services.
As we face the challenges of a changing climate, it is essential to build resilient communities that can adapt to future uncertainties. The Soludo administration will be integrating climate change considerations into its sustainable environment practices and urban renewal strategies, in order to promote resilience against natural disasters, extreme weather events, and resource scarcity.
This, the government will be doing by continuing to invest in resilient infrastructure, green building practices, waste management and disaster preparedness, towards ensuring the long-term viability of our cities and safeguarding the well-being of Anambra State inhabitants.
So, without a doubt, the epic journey being led by Governor Soludo towards transforming Anambra State as a livable, smart and prosperous megacity and Africa’s axis of sustainable prosperity is on course. The environmental sustainability imperatives for the journey are being taken care of.
The governor recognizes that by prioritizing environmental sustainability, fostering economic growth, enhancing public health, and building resilient communities, we can create a harmonious balance between human progress and the preservation of our environment.
Indeed, the choices we make today will shape the world we pass on to future generations, and by embracing sustainable practices, we can ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for all. Indeed the Solution is Here!!!!