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Every so often, it seems like there is another bushfire somewhere in the world. Well, that’s because there is. In January 2020, a fire ravaged 5 hectares of land in Port Harcourt. In 2019, 906,000 hectares of property was destroyed in California. These are just in the past year alone. While some of these incidents are seasonal, like in the case with California, they have gotten much worse over the past few years as a result of climate change.
The correlation between bushfires and climate change cannot be ignored. As the Earth becomes warmer and dryer due to rising global temperatures, the prevalence of increases as conditions generally become more favourable for fires to spread.
Bushfires have destroyed homes, killed wildlife and caused monumental damage to the environment. The agricultural impact is particularly disturbing. The large volume of water often used to put out these fires can cause erosion, making the surrounding soil unsuitable for food cultivation. This trend often triggers flash floods that lead to the introduction of toxic chemicals into neighbouring waterways.
In humans, the effects of bushfires are equally deadly. The burning of vegetation releases toxic emissions such as hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulphide, sulphur, oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter (dust, fumes, mist, and smoke) and many more that cause discomfort in humans. Additionally, the loss of trees and plants, which produce a significant portion of our planet’s oxygen, means we are left with less clean air.
The threat to biodiversity also needs to be accounted for. In any instance of bushfire, native plant and animal species are often the first to die; this can easily mean the extinction of an already endangered species.
Everything is connected, and nothing should be ignored.
The 2019 Amazonian tropical dry season brought a significant surge in the number and impact of bushfires. The environmental impact was felt in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay and Colombia, with 906,000 hectares of forest destroyed. In Nigeria and around the world, several similar incidents have occurred over the past year, with growing intensity in all cases.
The location of some prominent incidents of bushfires in Nigeria and around the world over the past year.
As a sustainability-conscious and forward-thinking businesses, we at Nestoil take the impact of bushfires very seriously. Bushfires post a severe threat, particularly in rural areas, and we are championing many initiatives to help reduce risks and impact. For one, we have increased sensitisation of our workforce and the host communities where we operate on the dangers of bushfires. We have also committed more resources to the restoration of land around our facilities by planting more trees.
Additionally, we have partnered with the Nigerian Environmental Society and other NGOs, offering support within our areas of operation. Our management commitment to environmental protection is also crucial as we integrate environmental concerns into our activities and decision making.
The responsibility of preventing bushfires does not fall on the government and large corporations alone. In fact, the majority of bushfires are caused by acts of individual human error and carelessness. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to help reverse the trend:
Compliance with local/national regulations and laws: Every state and country has regulations regarding the bush burning during various times of the year, and what materials and substances are permitted to be burned. Adhering to these laws can help avoid accidentally setting off fires.
Education and community awareness: Whether you’re talking to a friend about the inappropriate use of fire, or partaking in a global campaign on environmental protection, everyone should play their part to amplify campaigns focusing on the threat of bushfires to life and the environment. Every action counts.
The biological and environmental costs of bushfires are, more often than not, disastrous. Through increased awareness, sensitization and lifestyle changes, we can help reverse the trend.
Samuel ObiejesiHead, Environmental/Renewable & Sustainable Energy