Environmental experts in the South East have expressed worry over the dangers of bush burning on ecological ecosystem and its health implications.
The experts made the observations while reacting to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey on the overwhelming effect of bush burning and practical steps to ensure that the negative habit is checked.
Dr George Ugwu, the Executive Secretary of Enugu State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (ENS-PHCDA), said that bush burning disrupted the ecosystem and led to respiratory difficulties and infections.
Ugwu noted that trees, shrubs and leaves, which were directly affected by bush burning were meant to balance the ecosystem, refine and re-purify environmental air for the overall benefit and health of all animals including humans.
“Bush burning limits the ability of the environment to recycle itself and balances the natural ecosystem.
“Thus, in this type of polluted environment, there will be respiratory difficulties; there might be respiratory infection and those suffering from pollution allergy and asthma might no longer continue to stay comfortable in such an environment,’’ he said.
Ugwu said that activities of bush burning also dislodged wild animals and sometimes these wild animals would likely move close to human abodes and constitute terror to humans as their natural homes had been destroyed due to bush burning.
He said that bush burning remained harmful practices and “it is highly discouraged medically and environmentally.’’
Mr Fred Anusim, South-East Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), warned residents to desist from bush burning.
Anusim said that the agency had commenced sensitisation against bush burning in Enugu State and other South-East states.
He urged hunters to avoid burning of bushes during hunting, adding that farmers should adopt clearing bushes with cutlass while leaving the leaves and shrubs as natural manure rather than burning of farmlands for cultivation.
“We urge all concerned to be mindful of bush burning as the crude technique leads to uncontrollable fire, resulting in loss of lives and property, especially vast farmlands.
“Those smokers that drop cigarette ash/studs carelessly must be mindful of such acts because they can lead to uncontrollable fire and man-made disaster,” he said.
In Abia, Mr Ikechukwu Ukaegbu, the Director of Pollution Control and Environmental Health in the Ministry of Environment, described bush burning as a `disturbing phenomenon’.
Ukaegbu said that findings revealed that bush burning could possibly result from farmers preparing their farmlands for cultivation or hunters seeking to force animals out of hiding.
He said that in other cases, bush burning could be caused by mischief makers.
He said that the committee on climate change set up by the state government was saddled with the responsibility of educating the public on the attendant effect of bush burning on the environment and climate.
Ukaegbu said that bush burning had a correlation with the climate change, hence the state government had to deal with the issues bordering on climate change holistically.
“Indiscriminate bush burning is not allowed in Abia. There are bye laws for the purpose of safe agricultural practice in Abia.
“We have created avenues that will be used to enlighten rural dwellers on the dangers of bush burning.
“We are applying the community-based engagement concept to make the public active players in the campaign against the practice of bush burning,” Ukaegbu said.
From Ebonyi, Dr Kelechi Okezie, an environmental expert posited that bush burning was one of the activities of man that endangered and degrade the environment.
Okezie called for strict enforcement of laws and policies against bush burning in the state.
“Bush burning for whatever reason, in whatever guise or purpose is very detrimental to the environment and degrades the soil.
“Government should embark on measures to halt the negative practice which is more prevalent in our rural communities and often done by the local farmers.
“Bush burning affects soil nutrients, reduces quality of the soil and causes the depletion of the ozone layers that shield man from the hazardous sun rays.
“Bush burning also leads to deforestation which contributes to climate change and imparts negatively on the ecosystem by destroying the fauna and flora lives,” Okezie said.
Okezie, who is the Executive Director, Neighbourhood Environment Watch-Foundation (NEW-F) called on various stakeholders to sensitise the public on the dangers of bush burning to human, animal and the environment in general.
Also, in its determined campaign to end bush burning in the state, Ebonyi government last year inaugurated 13 climate change desk officers across the local government areas of the state.
Dr Obianuju Aloh, the Senior Special Assistant to Gov. Dave Umahi on Climate Change, who inaugurated the officers, urged them to sensitise their local communities on the need to avoid illegal burning of bushes, plant trees and nurture them to blossom.
Aloh also urged the officers to serve as a bridge between the state and local governments in order to ensure that the environment was safeguarded.
She expressed government’s willingness to encourage and promote actions that would make the environment healthy and liveable.
“The government is committed to developing strategies that will encourage and promote better liveable and healthy environment.
“The environment is a priceless gift to mankind and we have no other environment outside this one we are living in and we must ensure that we protect it from all forms of abuse and degradation,” Aloh said.
Meanwhile, investigation by NAN revealed that illegal bush burning had resulted in a number of fire disasters that led to loss of human lives and destruction of property worth millions of Naira in the state.
Latest among the incidents is the fire disaster that razed parts of Kpiri-kpiri market in Abakaliki.