It has been a long debate between the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Cross River State Government and environmental advocates over the construction of a 275km long “six-laned” Superhighway to connect Calabar- the Cross River State’s capital to Benue State and other parts of the country.
For many, it was simply an approval to go ahead with the Super Highway, particularly as intoned by the Cross River State governor that “equipment are returning to site and work will commence immediately as earlier planned.”
The truth, however, is that it was a conditional approval by the Federal Ministry of Environment. The Environment Minister of State, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, on Thursday, June 29, 2017 in Abuja while handing the conditionally-approved EIA report to the Deputy Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ivara Esu said: “all conditions must be met before a final approval is given to the EIA report to signal commencement of work. There would be a review within the next two or three weeks.”
Some environmentalists have postulated that FG’s issuance of 23 conditions to be fulfilled by the Cross River State Government in the 14-21 days is meant to prove the state’s readiness to commit themselves to the $3.5 billion super highway project.
To satisfy the curiosity of those wondering, what is (and what is not) on the conditionally-approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be revised in two weeks’ time, here are some of 23 conditions issued by the Federal Ministry of Environment before the Cross River State Government (CRSG) can fully commence construction:
- The CRSG is to ensure that the updated maps in the new EIA must show that the re-routed road corridor cognisance of the boundary of Cross River National Park and Ekuri Community Forest as well as conform to international best practices on setbacks for highways in critical ecosystems such as the proposed corridor.
- The EIA approval shall cover only the construction of a 275km long by 70m width Superhighway of six lanes including setbacks and other associated infrastructures such as eco-friendly bridges, culverts, drainages from Calabar to Katsina-Ala junction in Cross River State.
- The CRSG shall ensure that the diverse management plans, which include Environmental Management Plan (EMP); Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP); Resettlement Action Plan (RAP); Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP); Greenhouse Gas Management Plan (GHGMP); Public Consultation Plan (PCP); Waste Management Plan (WMP); Traffic Management Plan (TMP) as well as Labour and Human Resources Plan (LHRP) put in place for the road project are strictly adhered to as required throughout the project lifecycle.
- The CRSG is also to gazette the reversal of revocation order on the acquisition of 10km on either side to the 70km span of the road corridor as well as the gazetting of the boundary of Cross River National Park within two weeks.
- CRSG shall ensure that the construction of the entire road project and associated infrastructures conform to standard engineering codes and international best practices.
- CRSG shall identify all proximate communities to the road corridor within the established area of influence as well as the project affected persons (PAPS) and ensure that every community/PAP is regularly consulted with throughout the project lifespan.
- The environmental offsetting should be one of the guiding principles for the proposed road construction as the proposed project area of influence is noted for endemic, threatened and endangered flora and fauna. There shall be development and funding of Biodiversity offset by CRSG.
- CRSG shall ensure that all relevant non-governmental organisations both local and international are consulted with regularly during the project lifespan to ensure among others biodiversity protection and project sustainability.
- CSRG shall ensure that the highly technical eco-friendly bridges to be constructed at strategic points/biodiversity hotspots/critical ecosystem on the road corridor are intensively monitored by specialized accredited consultants.
- CSRG shall ensure that the borrow pits proposed for the road project are provided with coordinates for ease of location, site identification number, reclaimed and converted to alternative environmental-friendly uses in line with regulatory standards as well as international best practices.
- CRSG shall ensure that the proposed road setbacks from third party structures, farmlands, critical ecosystem and green areas confirm to engineering code of practice/regulatory standards as well as international best practices.
- CRSG shall ensure that cautionary signs are appropriately placed at strategic points along the road corridor during implementation and throughout the lifecycle especially for wildlife crossing.
- CSRG shall ensure proper drainage termination for the flow route of run-off/storm water to protect the road corridor from erosion, ensure that the road embankment is constructed in a way that allows free-flow of surface water run-off, that any existing access road to neighbouring villages and settlements are not blocked, create appropriate buffer zones to prevent damage to unique ecosystems as well as enhance forest cover.
- CSRG shall put in place appropriate road furniture and safety standards in line with international best practices.
- CRSG shall ensure that the proposed project protects the hydrology of wetlands, streams and channels through restoration of natural drainage pattern and reduce disruption of ecological processes by providing wildlife corridor.
- CSRG shall provide adequate personal protective equipment for workers, ensure that every worker on the project is adequately trained on Health; Safety and Environment procedures for Highway and provide sanitary facilities and mobile clinic during project construction.
- CSRG shall ensure that the maintenance and management of the road corridor is in line with international best practices.
- There shall be Impact Mitigation Monitoring (IMM), Post Impact Assessment (PIA), Environmental Audits and Compliance Monitoring on the project by the Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with other relevant regulatory agencies.
- CSRG shall put in place a robust contingency plan for the proposed road project.
- CSRG shall update 4th version of the EIA report to also include the following: (a) To exclude flora and fauna that are non-existent in the proposed project area of influence as per the attached; (b) A comprehensive list of the actual affected communities along the proposed road corridor; (c) List of borrow pits with coordinates and site identity for the proposed road project; (d) Map clearly showing the preferred road corridor with coordinates as well as major crossings along the entire stretch; (e) The EIA report should consider indirect long term impacts of hunting and habitat loss on Cross River National Park proximity to the Superhighway with improved access to the forest; (f) The updated 4thversion of the EIA report shall be submitted to the Ministry within two weeks.
As we anticipate what happens within the two-three weeks review period, one thing that is sure is that there will be a re-route of the proposed Cross River Highway to protect the fauna, flora, and nature of the Ekuri forest community and within the Cross River National Park (CRNP).
Personally, I have gone through the Biodiversity Action Plan and the Environmental Impact Assessment. I dare to say that judging by the structure of the documents, the names of individuals and respected organizations working with the Cross River State Government on this project, Nigeria’s biodiversity (Wildlife especially) will be prioritized.
The world is watching!
‘Seyifunmi Adebote, an Environmentalist, a youth advocate and a Wildlife Researcher, writes from Abuja. His Email: [email protected]