Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Case Studies on Coastal Wetlands and Water Resources in Nigeria

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Case Studies on Coastal Wetlands and Water Resources in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

Wetlands are important elements of Nigeria's watershed systems (Uluocha & Okeke, (2004); Asibor, (2009); Chidi & Ominigbo, (2010). A great deal of the hydrological and water resources problems currently experienced in Nigeria are the resultant effects of wetland degradation in the country. The challenges posed by the degradation can better be understood and better appreciated when viewed against the backdrop of the benefits derivable from the wetlands.

The current use and management of water and wetland resources is dominated by the construction of large dams to store much of the available water for hydropower, irrigation and urban water supply. This practice, which serves to exacerbate the climate variability and change impacts, has often lefttoo little for maintaining the traditional wetland function downstream and caused significant stream flow regime change in most of the major wetlands in Nigeria.

It has been estimated that a rise in sea level by up to 59cm will see several of Nigerian coastal states being submerged in waters and floods (Onyeka & Adaobi, 2008). Such events will no doubt, disrupt the life and occupations of the inhabitants such as fishing, farming etc as well as wreck great havoc on the ecological balance (Chidi & Ominigbo, 2010). The projected impact of climate change on water and wetland resources would be all pervasive. Physical changes in the hydrological cycle (driven by both climate change and human modification of the systems) in the case of reduced rainfall and/or increased evaporation would disconnect rivers from their floodplains and wetlands and slow water velocity in riverine systems, converting them into a chain of connected reservoirs or pools. These in turn impact the migratory patterns of fish species and the composition of riparian habitat, opens the way for exotic species, and contributes to an overall loss of freshwater biodiversity and inland fishery resources and agricultural productivity of traditional systems and ecosystems long adapted to the flood regime.

UNEP (2007) alerts that globally, wetlands have been reduced by 50%. It is estimated that one third of all endangered species are dependent on wetlands (Asibor, 2009). Though, Nigeria contributes less to the global green house effect, the country remains the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of global warming and climate change (Bonfis, 2001). Climate change is expected to impact adversely on wetland functions through change in hydrology, biogeochemistry and biomass accumulation. Particularly, climate change is expected to cause melting of sea ice, rise in sea levels, change in oceanic circulation patterns, species extinction, salt water intrusion, loss of habitat, higher storm frequency and intensity, flooding in the coastal regions, amongst others (Dietrich, 2005; Kusler, 2003). The combined adverse effects of mineral exploitation and climate change are enormous, hence the need for serious studies to protect wetlands.

Strategy for preparedness and adaptation to impacts of climate change on water resources and wetlands is very desirable. This paper therefore advocates that there is the challenging need to protect the wetlands to ensure that they will continue to provide their essential goods and services as well as ensure the sustenance of the surface and groundwater resources of Nigeria.

Water and Wetlands Resources of Nigeria

Nigeria is naturally endowed with abundant surface and groundwater resources, but the water supply situation in the country for various uses remains far below expectation (Nwankwoala, 2011; Offodile, 2006; Tijani, 2006; Uluocha & Okeke, 2004). Aggravating the problem of water management in the country is the fact that wetlands, which naturally recharge and protect both the surface and groundwater resources, are being unscrupulously degraded at a rather alarming rate (Uluocha & Okeke, 2004).

Wetlands, as defined by Ramsar Convention [1971] "Areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6 meters. …

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