Actions set out to combat diseases and natural disasters that continually threaten human existence may likely not yield desired results if efforts are not made to restore the aesthetics of the environment, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said. The Governor said human race has a duty to protect the natural composition of the environment and embrace actions that would discourage degradation of ecosystem. Sanwo-Olu spoke at an event held at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Yaba, in commemoration of the Tree Planting Day. The Governor dedicated the exercise with the theme: “Tree for Life”, to all health and emergency workers on the frontline of the State’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The State Government, since 2008, dedicates every July 14 as its tree-planting day as part of its sustainable actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change in line with Goals 13 and 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event also featured the inauguration of a 48-capacity morgue donated by IHS Nigeria Limited – a private telecommunication firm – to support the State Government’s effort in the period of public health crisis.
The Governor said every effort to save the earth from diseases must be met with equal energy to restore the natural environment by planting trees and embarking on activities that will restore environment’s bio-diversity. He drew parallels between the protective role trees play in the environment, and the roles of the health workers in protecting people from diseases and pandemics.
Sanwo-Olu said although the State had been deploying all resources and manpower required to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, this, he said, should not be an excuse to take away Government’s attention on matters that equally affect the wellbeing of Lagos. He said: “This year’s Tree Planting Day is in honour of our frontline medical personnel, who toil, day after day, in the most challenging circumstances imaginable, on behalf of the rest of us. However, these are challenging times for cities across the world. The Coronavirus pandemic has drastically altered the way we live our lives and do business. There is a new normal, and it is now becoming clear that we may never return to the old ways of doing things.
“But, even amidst the challenges of COVID-19, one mistake we cannot afford to make is to ignore the existing problems and issues that predated the pandemic. COVID-19 cannot become an excuse for taking our attention away from other issues. One of such is the issue of climate change and environmental sustainability. “Lagos has seen its own fair share of climate change. As a coastal city, we are at the mercy of rising sea levels. As Africa’s most populated city, we have seen how demographic pressures have stripped the landscape of significant amounts of its forest cover. We are not immune from global warming and the various other climatic challenges experienced around the world”.
Sanwo-Olu said every resident in the State has a role to play in making Lagos a resilient city, stressing that planting of trees remained one of the best actions to mitigate effects of climate change. He urged people to key into the plan and support the efforts of the Government, just as the world approaches the final decade of the push for the attainment of SDGs as outlined by the United Nations. He said: “Goal 13 of the SDGs challenges us to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, while Goal 15 seeks to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” “Lagos State will continue to be at the forefront of sustainable climate action in Nigeria and Africa. Everyone has a role to play in contributing strongly to these goals, including individuals, corporate organisations, national governments, as well as sub-national governments like Lagos.” Sanwo-Olu praised the Ministry of the Environment and Lagos State Parks and Gardens, LASPARK for sustaining the culture and sensitisation of residents on the importance of tree planting.
Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, said tree planting remained the effective remedial action against erosion, pointing out that the perennial problem of flooding could be solved if residents fully embraced tree planting as new culture. He said: “The interdependence of man and the environment in which we exist is becoming increasingly clearer. As countries respond to global pandemic, the path ahead presents possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity to shift the global development paradigm towards more sustainable and inclusive policies that will act as foundation for resilient people and societies. This is what informed the choice of ‘Tree for Life’ as the theme of this year’s tree-planting exercise.” The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, pledged to work collaboratively with the Ministry of the Environment to fight diseases and deforestration. The highpoint was the planting of a tree by Gov. Sanwo-Olu and the inauguration of the morgue donated by IHS Nigeria Limited. Tree-planting events were held simultaneously in three other isolation centres across the State by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, First Lady, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu and wife of the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Oluremi Hamzat.