Untapped economic potentials   Solid minerals: Gold, Lithium, etc.   Information technology (ICT)  
Stronger economies together   Arewa center of excellence   Arewa strategic development  
Era of collaboration & partnership   Small & medium enterprises   Arewa regional decision makers  
Arewa demographic shifts   Arewa, the quest for unity   Publications  



March 1, 2021

The Environment Crisis in Nigeria

By Dr Baba J Adamu

l Contact l

Current environmental issues in Nigeria are closely connected with population growth. Like any other country, regular consumption tends to lead to pollution and destruction of the environment. The environment is important because it supports the survival of human beings, is the source of natural resources (solid minerals), supports biodiversity and offers remarkable beauty. Moreover, the environment is responsible for air purification and disaster control. Apart from food, the environment provides several other natural resources necessary for the survival of human beings: the source of clean water, medicines, clothing, biofuels, wood and fossil fuels, etc. These natural resources not only promote human survival on Earth, but they also enhance the living standards of people. More so, the environment supports most economic activities like farming, fishing, other agricultural endeavours, manufacturing and tourism, etc. For example, agriculture is dependent on adequate rainfall and fertile soils. In this regard, lack of care for the environment may affect employment, food security and production from such industries negatively including the spread of diseases and degradation. Moreover, undisturbed natural ecosystems can moderate severe weather phenomena and limit their damage. For example, coastal swamps slow water flow and hold water during severe sea storms. Also, trees help to reduce wind speeds hence making them less destructive to settlement areas. There is natural beauty like waterfalls, rivers, lakes, oceans, wildlife and forests with all goods and services used by humanity come directly or indirectly from the Earth and its environment.

The environment is constantly changing. There is no denying that fact. However, as the environment changes, so does the need to become increasingly aware of the problems that surround it. With a massive influx of natural disasters, warming and cooling periods, different types of weather patterns and much more, people need to be aware of what types of environmental problems our planet is facing. Global warming has become an undisputed fact about current livelihoods; the planet is warming up and this isn’t the only environmental problem people should be concerned about. All across the world, people are facing a wealth of new and challenging environmental problems every day. Some of them are small and only affect a few ecosystems, but others are drastically changing the landscape of what we already know. According to John Paul II, “the Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations”.

20 Major Current Environmental Problems

1. Pollution: There are 7 key types of pollution – air, water, soil, noise, radioactive, light and thermal and these are primary causes that affect our environment in many ways. All these types of pollution are interlinked and influence each other. Therefore we need to tackle all of them together. Pollution of air, water and soil requires millions of years to recoup. Industry and motor vehicle exhaust are the number one pollutants. Heavy metals, nitrates and plastic are toxins responsible for pollution. While water pollution is caused by the oil spill, acid rain, urban runoff, air pollution is caused by various gases and toxins released by industries and factories and the combustion of fossil fuels; soil pollution is majorly caused by industrial waste that deprives the soil of essential nutrients.

2. Soil Degradation: Globally, food security depends on the factor of whether or not soils are in good condition to produce crops. According to UN estimates, about 12 million hectares of farmland a year get seriously degraded. Soils get damaged due to many reasons. Such reasons include erosion, overgrazing, overexposure to pollutants, monoculture planting, soil compaction, land-use conversion and many more. Nowadays, a wide range of techniques of soil conservation and restoration exist, from no-till agriculture to crop rotation to water-retention through terrace-building.

3. Flooding and Erosion & Global Warming: Flooding and erosion affecting the highways are mainly a result of heavy rainstorms. On occasion, rainstorms can produce so much water that the existing drainage, natural streams or manmade ditches, for example, cannot contain the flow. Soil erosion is caused by rain (primarily) and wind - and of course, heavy rain is what causes flooding. Where erosion may cause flooding is where, over time, silt and stones/gravels are deposited in the river bed. During heavy rains, the water runs off causing floods and eventually soil erosion. Likewise, soil erosion may lead to flooding as well because, without the soil’s ability to absorb water, downstream flooding can occur creating off-site problems. The water in the floods is excess so when the water flows it even takes the soil with them so that's how floods cause soil erosion. Climate changes like global warming are the result of human practices like the emission of greenhouse gases. Global warming leads to rising temperatures of the oceans and the earth’s surface causing natural disasters that include flooding, melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea levels and also unnatural patterns of precipitation such as flash floods, hurricanes, wildfires, drought, excessive snow or desertification.

4. Overpopulation: The population of the planet is reaching unsustainable levels as it faces a shortage of resources like water, fuel and food. Population explosion in less developed and developing countries is straining the already scarce resources. Intensive agriculture practiced producing food damages the environment through the use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and insecticides. Overpopulation is also one of the crucial current environmental problems.

5. Natural Resource Depletion: Another crucial current environmental problem is the depletion of Natural resources. Humans use so many natural resources that it would need almost 1.5 piles of earth to cover all our needs. This will further increase in the future due to massive industrialization in Asian countries like India and China. Increased use of natural resources leads to several other environmental issues, such as industrialization, population growth and air pollution. Over time, natural resource depletion will lead to an energy crisis. The chemicals emitted from many natural resources contribute to climate change. Fossil fuel consumption results in the emission of greenhouse gases, which is primarily responsible for global warming and climate change. Globally, people are making efforts to shift to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, biogas and geothermal energy. As such, the cost of installing the infrastructure and maintaining these sources has plummeted in recent years.

6. Generating Unsustainable Waste: The huge production of waste due to our hyper-consumption is a major threat to the environment. As per the study, the average person produces 4.3 pounds of waste per day, and the US alone accounting for 220 million tons a year. This hyper-consumption results in non-biodegradable trash in the form of plastic packaging, toxic e-waste, and harmful chemicals that leach into our waterways. When this waste ends up in landfills, it generates enormous amounts of methane, which ranks as one of the worst greenhouse gases because of its high potential for global warming. It creates severe explosion hazards. Since modern technology allows us to access digital environments, many things that you need can be fulfilled in the cloud. Consider your purchases carefully. 

7. Waste Disposal: The overconsumption of resources and the creation of plastics are creating a global crisis of waste disposal. Developed countries are notorious for producing an excessive amount of waste or garbage and dumping their waste in the oceans and less developed countries. Nuclear waste disposal has tremendous health hazards associated with it. Plastic, fast food, packaging and cheap electronic wastes threaten the well-being of humans. Waste disposal is, therefore, one of the urgent current environmental problems.

8. Deforestation & Afforestation: The spread of desert-like conditions in arid or semi-arid areas, due to overgrazing, loss of agriculturally productive soils, or climate change. Our forests are natural sinks of carbon dioxide and produce fresh oxygen, as well as helps in regulating temperature and rainfall. At present, forests cover 30% of the land, but every year tree cover is lost, amounting to the country of Panama due to the growing population demand for more food, shelter and cloth. Deforestation simply means clearing of green cover and makes that land available for residential, industrial or commercial purposes. Afforestation - converting a bare or agricultural space by planting trees and plants; reforestation involves replanting trees on areas that have been cut or destroyed by fire.

9. Greenhouse gas & Groundwater: A gas that "traps" infrared radiation in the lower atmosphere causing surface warming; water vapour, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, hydro-fluorocarbons, and ozone are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere - water sources found below the surface of the earth often in naturally occurring reservoirs in permeable rock strata; the source for wells and natural springs.

10. Loss of Biodiversity: Human activity is leading to the extinction of species and habitats and loss of biodiversity. Ecosystems, which took millions of years to perfect, are in danger when any species population is decimating. The balance of natural processes like pollination is crucial to the survival of the ecosystem, and human activity threatens the same. Another example is the destruction of coral reefs in the various oceans, which support the rich marine life.

11. Climate Change: Climate change is yet another environmental problem that has surfaced in the last couple of decades. It occurs due to the rise in global warming, which happens due to the increase in temperature of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and the release of harmful gases by industries. Climate change has various harmful effects but is not limited to the melting of polar ice, change in seasons, occurrence of new diseases, frequent occurrence of floods and change in overall weather scenario.

12. Ocean Acidification & Polar Ice Caps: It is a direct impact of excessive production of CO2. 25% of total atmospheric CO2 is produced by humans. The ocean acidity has increased over the last 250 years, but by 2100, it may shoot up by 150%. The main impact is on shellfish and plankton in the same way as human osteoporosis. The issue of the melting of polar ice caps affects the globe and is a contentious one. Although NASA studies have shown that the amount of ice in Antarctica is increasing, however, this increase is only one-third of what is being lost in the Arctic. There is enough evidence that shows sea levels are rising, and the melting of Arctic ice caps is a major contributor. Over time, the melting of polar ice caps could lead to extensive flooding, contamination of drinking water and major changes in ecosystems.

13. The Nitrogen Cycle: We often ignore the effects of the use of nitrogen by humans. Nitrogen is a crucial component of all life. Problems occur when the nitrogen cycle is not balanced. A process through which it is converted or ‘fixed’ to a more usable form is called fixation. The fixation happens biologically and through lightning, or it can be done Industrially. People have learned to convert nitrogen gas to ammonia (NH3-) and fertilizers that are nitrogen-rich to supplement the amount of nitrogen fixed naturally. It is estimated that agriculture may be responsible for about 50% of the nitrogen fixation on earth through the cultivation of nitrogen-fixing crops and the production of human-made fertilizers. When nitrogen is used more than plant demand, it can leach from soils into waterways and contributes to eutrophication. Excess levels of nitrogen in water can hamper marine ecosystems, through overstimulation of plant and algae growth. This blocks the light from getting into deeper waters, thus damaging the rest of the marine population. The problem can also occur during nitrification and denitrification. Nitrous oxide (N2O) can be formed when the chemical process is not completed. N2O is a potent greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.

14. Ozone Layer Depletion: The ozone layer is an invisible layer of protection around the planet that protects us from the sun’s harmful rays. The depletion of the crucial Ozone layer of the atmosphere is attributed to pollution caused by Chlorine and Bromide found in Chloro-fluoro carbons (CFCs). Once these toxic gases reach the upper atmosphere, they create a hole in the ozone layer, the biggest of which is above the Antarctic. CFCs are banned in many industries and consumer products. The ozone layer is valuable because it prevents harmful UV radiation from reaching the earth. This is one of the most important current environmental problems.

15. Acid Rain: Acid rain occurs due to the presence of certain pollutants in the atmosphere. Acid rain can be caused due to combustion of fossil fuels or erupting volcanoes or rotting vegetation which releases sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere. Acid rain is a known environmental problem that can have a serious effect on human health, wildlife and aquatic species.

16. Water Pollution: Clean drinking water is becoming a rare commodity. Water is becoming an economic and political issue as the human population fights for this resource. One of the options suggested is using the process of desalinization. Industrial development is filling our rivers, seas and oceans with toxic pollutants, which are a major threat to human health.

17. Overfishing: Overfishing affects natural ecosystems severely and leads to an imbalance of ocean life. Around 63% of global fish stocks are estimated to be overfished. Overfishing caused fishing fleets to migrate to new waters that would further deplete the fish stocks. Moreover, it has negative effects on coastal communities that rely on fishing to support their living. 

18. Urban Sprawl: Urban sprawl refers to the migration of the population from high-density urban areas to low-density rural areas, which results in the spreading of the city over more and more rural land. Urban sprawl results in land degradation, increased traffic, environmental issues and health issues. The ever-growing demand for land displaces the natural environment consisting of flora and fauna, instead of being replaced.

19. Public Health Issues: The current environmental problems pose a lot of risk to the health of humans and animals. Dirty water is the biggest health risk in the world and poses a threat to the quality of life and public health. Runoff to rivers carries with it toxins, chemicals and disease-carrying organisms. Pollutants cause respiratory diseases like Asthma and cardiac-vascular problems. High temperatures encourage the spread of infectious diseases like Dengue.

20. Genetic Engineering: Genetic modification of food using biotechnology is called genetic engineering. Genetic modification of food results in increased toxins and diseases as genes from an allergic plant can transfer to the target plant. Genetically modified crops can cause serious environmental problems as an engineered gene may prove toxic to wildlife. Another drawback is that increased use of toxins to make insect resistant plants can cause resultant organisms to become resistant to antibiotics. The need for change in our daily lives and the movements of our government is growing. Since so many different factors come into play, such as voting, governmental issues, the desire to stick to a routine, many people don’t consider that what they do will affect future generations. If humans continue moving forward in such a harmful way towards the future, then there will be no future to consider. Although it’s a fact that we cannot physically stop our ozone layer from thinning (and scientists are still having trouble figuring out what is causing it exactly), there are still so many things we can do to try and put a dent in what we already know. By raising awareness in your local community and within your families about these issues, you can help contribute to a more environmentally conscious and friendly place for you and your future generations to live.

Current Environmental Issues in Nigeria: Nigeria is one of the most populous nations constantly facing different issues like overpopulation, migration, improvement of medical care as well as problems connected with environmental pollution. The current environmental issues are closely related to population growth. Like any other country, it uses resources to provide residents with good living conditions. However, regular consumption tends to lead to pollution and destruction of the environment. The main environmental problems in Nigeria are:

·      Air pollution - Daily, millions of vehicles run throughout the country: they consume plenty of fuel and produce exhaust fumes;

·      Water pollution - It is not a secret that Nigeria has a deficit in drinking water. If you access it, then it is full of bacteria and industrial chemicals;

·      Desertification - This problem is caused by massive irrigation. The country loses kilometres of land. Industrial waste. Social changes are the result of human migration within the country and poor management of sanitary infrastructure;

·      Oil spills - People, who inhabit the area in the Niger Delta region suffer from oil spills every year. This place is so much polluted that the oil is found in the soil, even within five meters from the surface;

·      Deforestation - The high rate of urbanization, industrial development, and agricultural processes led to deforestation and extinction of animals living in the woods;

·      Industrial waste: Social changes are the result of human migration within the country. The problem is that searching for a better life, people create difficulties with accommodation. Due to this, many residents have to settle close to industrial areas. As a result, they have to consume water, which contains chemicals, breathe polluted air and eat food with increased nitrates.

·      Wind erosion - The lands which are situated in the northern part of Nigeria are constantly being “blown away” - eroded;

·      Climate change;

·      Soil degradation - Pesticides and chemicals often used by people for different purposes. However, they often forget about soil renovation and drawing a balance of minerals back to its original state;

·      Floods and erosion: Flooding and erosion affecting the highways are mainly a result of heavy rainstorms. On occasion, rainstorms can produce so much water that the existing drainage, natural streams or manmade ditches, for example, cannot contain the flow. Soil erosion is caused by rain (primarily) and wind - and of course, heavy rain is what causes flooding. Where erosion may cause flooding

·      Solid waste: Nigeria is one of those countries with poor management of sanitary infrastructure. It one of the main reasons, why people live rather close to wasted areas;

·      Oil spills: People, who inhabit the area in the delta of Niger, suffer from oil spills every year. This place is so much polluted that the oil is found in the soil, even within five meters from the surface;

·      Climate Change: Climate change occurs due to the rise in global warming, which happens due to the increase in temperature of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and the release of harmful gases by industries. Climate change has various harmful effects but is not limited to the melting of polar ice, change in seasons, occurrence of new diseases, frequent occurrence of floods and change in overall weather scenario.

Some Environmental Solutions in Nigeria: Still, there are tribal areas where people rely on hunting and simple vegetation for food apart from farming. The lack of education, poverty, and the ever-increasing population has raised many serious environmental issues in Nigeria. These issues have become a serious concern for not only the country and the continent but also the entire world. The solutions may be to adopt a strategy for a healthier, more sustainable and balanced environment and surrounding. There are different approaches to Environmental Solutions but the most effective is the collective and engaged efforts by all civil society organizations and stakeholders. UN Environment has recognized the importance of civil society in environmental sustainability and is actively working to ensure that civil society organizations can play a constructive role in the formulation and implementation of policy and programmes for sustainable development. Through a series of ministerial Declarations and the Governing Council's Resolutions and the strategy paper, 'Enhancing Civil Society Engagement in the Work of the United Nations Environment Programme'. The Environment subprogram should aim to contribute to sustainable development and improved well-being through empowering stakeholders at local, regional and national levels. The subprogram will provide open web platforms, services and access to timely, substantiated knowledge about the environment and emerging issues and by strengthening capacities to make use of substantiated knowledge in decision-making.

This can be achieved by building capacities to promote the production of environmentally sustainable products, this subprogram supports governments and the private sector to improve their capacities to design and implement laws, policies and management actions that promote the production of resource-efficient and sustainable goods and services. The subprogram should also disseminate research findings and implement demonstration projects to illustrate the benefits of an efficient, clean and safe environment.

Environmental pollution in Nigeria is a human-made problem. Thus, it is up to people to do everything possible to reduce its harmful influence and improve the state of the environment. The solutions can be offered to reduce pollution in Nigeria are:

·      Plant more trees to make the air cleaner;

·      Keep to the “3R” rule: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Re-claiming and remodelling things will save your budget and give a second life to goods. In this way, you also save natural resources;

·      The government should pay more attention and control to the industrial sector and defend not only the rights of business but also the right of people to breathe freely within a healthy environment;

·      Forest reservations will help to save animals from extinction; do not throw garbage into the rivers;

·      Create pathways for rainwater and clear gutter to avoid flooding.

In any case, poverty and environmental damage are often linked.  Polluted water can lead to crop failures. Climate change will turn fertile fields into desert and flood coastal areas where hundreds of millions live. Developing countries like Nigeria must insist on sustainable development that combines environmental care, social justice and economic growth to avoid deforestation, desertification, erosion and flooding due to man negligence. Unchecked population growth hurts any nation, as well as on the whole planet. Both the poverty and the environmental problems of sub-Saharan Africa today are largely the result of rapid population growth putting pressure on limited resources. More than twenty years of uncontrolled economic development have created serious, chronic air and water pollution. This has increased health problems and resulted in annual losses to farmers of crops worth billions. So uncontrolled growth is not only bad for the environment, but it also makes no economic sense.


Copyright © 2019 - to date: AREWA Center for Regional Economic Development (ACRED) - www.arewaonline-ng.com

All rights reserved Powered by iNetworksCanada