Igbo land is fast losing its once well cherished biodiversity. What used to be forest canopy vegetation is being turned into a savannah-like environment filled with buildings. The villages are fast dissolving into small towns and also the Igbo land is losing so many of their once culture of environmental preservation to a culture of waste, recklessness and thoughtless exploitation and abandonment of the environment.
The region rich in fauna and flora which were marvels of the world is open to environmental attack due to the unceasing quest to destroy rather than to preserve. Oftentimes, the exceptional wisdom of the ancestors when contrasted with today, makes the present generation appear infantile. The ancestors linked up so many things that this generation has not been able to decipher or to continue with.
In the past, the cherished environment was conserved with indigenous practices, bound with religious beliefs and cultural practices aimed at protecting biodiversity. Some forests were regarded as sacred. There were taboos associated with killing the wildlife and some types of woods were preserved for use only by the family and not for commercial purposes. These were protected so as not to be exploited and alter their habitats.
Civilisation and urbanisation, commercialisation and expansions due to development, industrialisation, impact of globalisation with modern science and technology, infrastructure and population growth have played a big role in the loss of the pristine vegetation; the canopy forests. These notwithstanding, hence it may be an expected outcome but regardless of these seemingly uncontrollable issues affecting the vegetation, what are the current practices that will impact positively towards the sustainability of the region’s environment and biodiversity?
In the individual’s homes, people fell trees, especially the economic trees; palm trees, fruit trees, ụkwa trees to build houses then replace them with flowers or flower trees not indigenous to Igbo.
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These flowers are very beautiful and edifying as leaving palm trees will make the posh houses look less modern. This is the mindset of the people of this generation whose lack of respect for those cultural and religious practices have aided in the destruction of the environment. The destruction which has impacted the soil in greater proportion.
Igbo land is suffering from erosion. The soil is left unprotected and flood is washing off the soil surface. In no distant time, if there is no stop to the degradation of the environment, the trees that produce the oxygen will be depleted and not only the soil will suffer, humans will as well suffer from lack of clean air.
In losing biodiversity, there is also an increasing loss of herbs peculiar to the people. Not only has the mindset driven away from the potent herbs within the environment, there is a replacement of the same with the adoption of wholehearted dependence on conventional medicine. Yet, herbs form active ingredients used by the pharmaceutical industry.
It should worry every Igbo person and indeed, it is a problem across Africa and the world. This necessitated the campaign of planting trees as contained in the UN SDG goal 15.
Planting trees solves many environmental issues and sustains indigenous tree species and forest habitats to the benefit of the present and next generation.
Igbo people have many trees that are very important in their spiritual, cultural and traditional beliefs and functions, most of which may be going extinct and deep correlations of these trees to the people’s existence undermined. Igbo thought system sees that Igbo people are connected to nature.
Indiscriminate deforestation is further depleting the trees in the region. In a recent report by International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), the situation in a forest reserve in Anambra state is presented as; “At Ossomala now, there is nothing like timbers or growing trees. You no longer can call it a forest” they reported a forest reserve agent as saying. In Enugu, “Chinese citizens have set up two factories for wood charcoal production in Enugu State without obtaining official permits from the state and federal agencies”as reported by the ICIR.
These affect the ecosystem of Igbo land but while the people are busy building mansions, they care less about the environment and the unrelenting exploitation. It also appears not to be in the priority list of the state governments to regulate deforestation and sustain the tree species, preserve biodiversity and protect the environment.
As deforestation caused the devastation caused by cyclone Idai in Mozambique,the country has lost 370,000 square kilometres of its forest. The World Bank reports that “Mozambique is a country with significant natural forest cover. Native forests and woodlands cover 43% of land-mass, harbouring extensive biodiversity and unique landscapes”
As deforestation and loss of special trees continue in Igbo land, flood continues to affect people, livelihood and loss of native and that Igbo unique landscapes continue.
Many countries have made pledges to address these deforestation but that largely are not implemented and that affects countries and Igbo land in particular.
To bring back nature in its fullest in Igbo land, there has to be efforts by social, cultural and traditional activists to educate people on the importance of preservation of the native trees, planting of trees, sustaining the environment and its unique nature, otherwise, in Igbo land, there will be many mansions with poor environment and loss of connection with nature.