Cross River communities insist on EIA for highway project
Four communities that will be critically impacted by the proposed Cross River State government 260 kilometres super highway project have insisted that the authorities conduct a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Rising from a three day community dialogue and EIA training programme organized by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, (HOMEF) led by Nnimmo Bassey, the communities (Okokori and Edondon in Obubra Local Government area; Old Ekuri and New Ekuri from Akamkpa Local government area); however rejected the absolute revocation and acquisition of 10km right of way of their forest land on either side of the proposed Superhighway, which threatens their biodiversity rich forest and its resources, the environment and livelihoods they depend on for daily survival were of great concern.
At the end of the three day interactive community dialogue and EIA training which took place at Okokori and Old Ekuri from June 9 to 11, the participants and community stakeholders resolved that they “need good roads but do not want their cultural heritage destroyed” as current plan by the government will do.
The resolution signed by the Village Head of Old Ekuri, Chief Steven Oji and 11 others insisted “on active engagement of communities in the EIA process with adequate compensation paid where necessary and to write to government to register their concerns relating to the proposed super highway project”.
They also resolved that Community’s Free Prior and informed Consent (FPIC) must be sought in all projects before implementation as they are prepared to “protest and resist any unsustainable forest management practices in the forest rich region”.
Accordingly, the state government was advised to “reduce every activity that promotes deforestation” but should “promote forest conservation and regeneration of indigenous trees in degraded areas”.
The workshop and EIA training programme also called for a minimized poaching, unregulated hunting and stop to illegal wild life trade in the precinct forest and “reject use of forest lands for large scale plantations, water pollution and the indiscriminate use of chemicals”.
They resolved to strengthen the Community Forest Watch for effective community forest monitoring, form a community health monitoring group to ensure sustainable forest management practices and “help to protect, preserve and conserve their forest which provides them with social, economic, spiritual benefits” and called for “NGOs and International agencies support to build a stronger alliance against the super highway project especially with regard to threats to forests”.
The thrust of the meeting was to build the capacity of relevant community stakeholders to discuss issues related to their forests as well as the overall impact.