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World Environment Day is marked every year on the 5th of June to celebrate and inspire actions towards the protection of our environment. This international day is one set apart by the United Nations to draw global attention to environmental issues and this year the World Environment Day’s theme is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. The focus of this campaign is on proffering solutions to plastic pollution. Every year, over 400 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide, a huge percentage of which are dumped into our rivers, streams, oceans, and lakes.

To commemorate World Environment Day, on the 3rd of June 2023, Prime Initiative For Green Development and other civil society organizations visited the Bodo Community, Gokana Local Government Area, Rivers State, Nigeria. The purpose of the visit was to hold a community dialogue with the people and the stakeholders of the community with respect to the mangrove deforestation and the massive oil spillage on their major water bodies. The Community Development Chairman warmly received the team of environmentalists, taking us on a tour to the mangrove swamp site, and expressed his concerns, passionately recounting the degradation activities plaguing the community. On reaching the mangrove swamp, we observed that the river was temporarily dried up and there was a scarcity of mangroves in the area. The Chairman further bemoaned the slow response of multinational companies, the Government, and its agencies to issues of oil spillage which they’ve been experiencing due to petroleum exploration activities in that region.

In speaking to some of the locals, we were notified that in recent years there had been a decline in fishing activities, which used to be a major occupation in the community before oil exploration activities. They explained that there had been increased scarcity of the diverse aquatic life that used to flood their water bodies, noting that with every oil spill from the multinational oil companies, more fishes recede into the larger oceans, away from their rivers.

On arriving at the boat terminal in the Bodo community, it was our observation that passengers were waiting by the shore of the river, waiting for the water tides to increase and fill up the dry swampy river base. Our team further held an interactive dialogue meeting with members of the Maritime Association of the community. They were intimated on the importance of their role as the Maritime Association in combating the menace of pollution on their rivers. As the body responsible for the regulation and transportation of goods and passengers, mainly from Bodo Community to Bonny Town, we were informed that the Maritime Association had made waste bins available on every boat for passengers to dispose of their wastes rather than throwing them into the rivers.

The leader of the association, however, used the opportunity to solicit the government for the dredging of the river to allow more water to flow in from the oceans into the rivers, as the water tides were irregular during parts of the day. He pointed out that dredging the rivers will allow for more inflow of water into their rivers which will boost the economy of the community as there will be an influx of trade of goods between Bodo and Bonny Town.

In conclusion, World Environment Day was another reminder that the conservation of our environment through the reduction of plastic pollution and the sustainable use of our mangroves, rivers, and oceans is a sure path to sustainable development and a healthier world for the coming generations.

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