Environmental sustainability has become an urgent priority for Nigeria. As a developing country with a rapidly growing population, Nigeria faces ecological challenges that threaten the health and livelihoods of its citizens as well as its economic progress. Pursuing sustainable development has thus become critical. This article explores Nigeria’s key environmental issues, the importance of sustainability, associated policies and regulations, sustainability practices by citizens and businesses, and the roles of innovation and technology in building a greener future.
Major Environmental Concerns in Nigeria
Nigeria grapples with multiple environmental problems:
- Nigeria has lost over 50% of its forest cover since 1990, equivalent to a loss of 11 million hectares of forest.
- Major drivers are logging, subsistence agriculture, and rapid urbanization.
- Deforestation increases erosion, reduces biodiversity, and decreases carbon sequestration.
- Desertification affects about 60% of Nigeria’s land area, especially across the north.
- Caused by drought, climate change, and unsustainable farming methods.
- Aggravates food insecurity and contributes to farmer-herder conflicts.
- Surface and groundwater face industrial pollution from oil spills and mining.
- Sewage mismanagement contaminates drinking water, causing waterborne diseases.
- Flooding worsens water pollution in cities like Lagos.
- Rapid urbanization and traffic congestion degrades Nigeria’s air quality, especially in cities.
- Indoor air pollution from burning solid fuels causes respiratory diseases.
- Gas flaring by oil companies releases harmful hydrocarbons.
- Coastal and gully erosion threatens communities in southeastern Nigeria.
- Caused by construction, deforestation, and climate change impacts.
- Nigeria generates 32 million tons of solid waste annually but collects only 40% of it.
- Results in urban litter and blocked drains spreading sanitation diseases.
- Electronic waste recycling is limited, creating pollution.
These interlinked challenges make environmental sustainability an urgent priority.
Why Environmental Sustainability Matters
Pursuing eco-friendly growth in Nigeria has become critical for several reasons:
Ensuring Public Health
- Reducing pollution of air, water, and soil is vital for lowering the incidence of diseases.
- Sustainability allows healthier, higher-quality living environments.
- Environmental degradation costs Nigeria $5 billion in GDP annually. Sustainability protects growth.
- Greener agricultural practices boost farm yields and food security.
Reducing Climate Change Vulnerability
- As a developing country, Nigeria is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts like desertification, flooding, and erosion.
- Sustainable land use and emission reduction is key for resilience.
- Nigeria is rich in wildlife and ecosystems like mangroves and rainforests. Protecting this natural heritage maintains balance.
Improving Resource Efficiency
- Sustainability principles optimize the utilization of energy, water, land and materials. This increases productivity.
- Environmentally progressive policies make Nigeria more attractive for foreign investment and partnerships.
Pursuing sustainability also upholds Nigeria’s commitments under global agreements like the Paris Climate Accord and UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Government Policies and Regulations
The Nigerian government has established various policies and regulations to promote environmental sustainability:
National Policy on Environment, 1989
- Provides framework for environmental governance. Outlines objectives across themes like pollution control.
National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act, 2007
- Established NESREA as the main regulatory body protecting the environment. Monitors violations.
Nigeria Vision 20:2020
- Government’s development agenda emphasizes sustainable economic growth protecting ecosystems.
National Environmental (Sanitation and Wastes Control) Regulations, 2009
- Outlines regulations for managing solid and liquid waste from industries and households.
National Policy on Plastic Waste Management, 2019
- Sets plastic waste minimization and recycling objectives. Prohibits non-degradable plastics.
Nigeria Nationally Determined Contribution under Paris Agreement
- Nigeria pledged 20% unconditional emission cut by 2030, and 47% cut with international support.
While good policies exist, effective monitoring and enforcement remains a challenge.
Sustainability Practices for Citizens
Ordinary citizens can adopt habits supporting sustainability:
- Replace regular bulbs with LEDs.
- Unplug devices when not in use.
- Use public transport to save fuel. Carpool where possible.
- Limit air conditioner use and set to moderate temperatures.
- Fix leaky taps and pipes immediately.
- Install water-saving showerheads.
- Reuse household greywater for flushing and gardening.
- Harvest rainwater.
Recycling and Waste Minimization
- Separate and recycle paper, plastic, glass, aluminium and electronics waste.
- Avoid single-use plastics like bags and bottles. Carry reusable versions.
- Compost organic kitchen and garden waste.
- Donate or repair used furniture, appliances and clothing rather than discard.
Sustainable Food Choices
- Eat less red meat to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Buy local produce to support farmers and avoid transport emissions.
- Grow your own vegetables and fruits at home or in community gardens.
- Plant indigenous tree saplings at homes, in neighbourhoods, and through community drives.
- Nurture tree saplings to maturity with water and care.
- Volunteer with organizations on local green initiatives like river cleaning.
- Attend public hearings and meetings to advocate for sustainability reforms.
- Use social media to raise awareness on environmental issues.
Every citizen should embrace sustainability in their daily life for collective national impact.
Sustainable Business Practices
Nigerian companies can also implement environmentally responsible practices:
- Replace equipment like boilers, motors and HVAC systems with energy-efficient models.
- Install smart meters and building automation systems to optimize energy use.
- Use renewable energy like solar where possible.
Water Conservation & Treatment
- Adopt low-flow faucets and toilets. Detect and fix leaks.
- Reuse greywater and harvested rainwater.
- Treat and safely recycle industrial wastewater.
- Institute paperless processes and digitized records to cut paper usage.
- Start in-house recycling programs for paper, plastics and electronics waste.
- Favor reusable packaging and office supplies over disposables.
Green Supply Chains
- Source raw materials from sustainable producers using eco-friendly practices.
- Optimize logistics and distribution to minimize fuel emissions.
- Construct new facilities meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or other green standards.
- Retrofit existing buildings for greater energy efficiency through upgrades.
Renewable Raw Materials
- Substitute fossil fuel-based materials with sustainably sourced renewable or recycled alternatives.
- Leverage biodegradable/compostable materials like plant-based plastics where feasible.
Adopting such steps enhances a company’s environmental credentials and long-term viability.
Harnessing Innovation for Sustainability
Innovative solutions can accelerate Nigeria’s sustainability:
- Clean cookstoves that burn fuel efficiently reduce indoor air pollution and deforestation.
- Decentralized solar solutions provide clean power affordably to rural areas.
- Applying green manures and biological pest control boosts yields sustainably.
- Small-scale filtration systems give households access to clean drinking water.
- Technologies like pyrolysis allow converting plastic waste into usable oils and fuels.
- Waste can be digested by microbes to produce combustible biogas for heating and cooking.
- Internet of Things sensors and data analytics optimize energy, water and waste flows.
Government funding, research, and public-private partnerships can drive such innovations.
Leveraging Digital Technology
Digital transformation enables sustainability:
Remote Work and Learning
- Virtual platforms like Zoom cut commuting needs, reducing transport emissions.
- Online shopping reduces personal trips, fuel use, and road congestion.
- Digital electricity grids integrate renewables and optimize distribution.
Supply Chain Tracking
- GPS and RFID tracking improves delivery route efficiency, saving fuel.
- Digital payments cut paper waste and transportation needs associated with cash.
- Remote doctor consultations minimize hospital trips, energy use and emissions.
- GIS systems help monitor environmental degradation and target reforestation.
- Drones and satellite data facilitate environmental planning and protection.
Digital transformation is enabling sustainable economic growth worldwide. Nigeria must fully leverage its potential.
Creating Green Jobs
Sustainability drives job creation:
- Renewable energy engineers to design and install solar, wind and biogas solutions.
- Waste management technicians to operate recycling and bioremediation of e-waste and plastics.
- Sustainability officers to manage corporate environmental programs.
- Foresters and horticulturists to nurture restored forests and green urban spaces.
- Eco-tourism guides to lead nature activities in protected reserves.
- Organic food growers and inspectors to expand sustainable agriculture.
- Environmental inspectors to monitor regulatory compliance.
- Park rangers to conserve ecosystems like Cross River National Park.
- Green construction workers to build energy-efficient buildings.
- Environmental educators to raise sustainability awareness in schools and communities.
A proactive focus on such green jobs accelerates Nigeria’s just transition to an eco-friendly economy.
Role of Citizens, Government & Businesses
A collective sustainability effort is essential:
- Adopt green habits in your lifestyle, consumption and waste disposal.
- Demand stronger environmental regulations and transparency from government.
- Report incidents like oil spills and pollution immediately.
- Implement eco-efficiency improvements that cut costs and environmental impacts.
- Comply with environmental regulations. Exceed minimum standards.
- Adopt greener technologies, materials and processes.
- Set science-based sustainability targets across sectors.
- Enforce environmental regulations strictly on businesses.
- Incentivize citizens and companies to go green through subsidies and tax rebates.
- Invest in large-scale environmental restoration projects.
- Fund research and innovation for local sustainable solutions.
- Support green entrepreneurship and job skills development.
Together, Nigeria can build a thriving, sustainable future.
- Nigeria faces concerning environmental challenges including deforestation, water pollution, desertification and waste levels.
- Pursuing sustainability is vital for public health, economic progress, climate resilience and conservation.
- Citizens can adopt daily green habits like energy conservation, recycling and eco-purchasing.
- Businesses should implement environmental management programs to increase eco-efficiency.
- Government must set bold sustainability policies and enforce them through agencies like NESREA.
- Innovation and technology offer solutions to many ecological issues.
- Digital transformation and green jobs will support sustainable growth.
- Collective action is needed, with citizens, businesses and government playing key roles.
With urgency and commitment from all stakeholders, Nigeria can transition towards an environmentally sustainable economy that secures its future prosperity.