Conservationists are trying to stop a proposed six-lane highway that will threaten rare and endangered species, as well as 180 indigenous communities.
A six-lane highway might improve commute times, but is it a worthwhile investment if its construction is a detriment to wildlife – especially rare and endangered species? This question is presently being debated by environmental advocates and supporters of a new six-lane highway proposed to be developed in Nigeria.
According to the LA Times, the proposed “superhighway” would cut through the rainforest in the southeastern region of the country, particularly the Cross River National Park, Ukpon River Forest Reserve, Cross River South Forest Reserve, Afi River Forest Reserve and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. 162 miles long, the project would result in six miles of land being cleared on either side of the roadway. Reportedly, its development would craft a line between northern Nigeria and a southern seaport on the Atlantic ocean.
Conservationists are concerned about the proposed highway because its route will threaten indigenous communities as well as threatened species, such as Preuss’s red colobus monkeys, slender-snouted crocodiles, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, and African grey parrots. Rare and endangered wildlife, as well, will be displaced by the highway’s construction. This list includes the rare Cross River gorilla, chimpanzees, forest elephants and pangolins (the world’s most poached animal). Finally, 180 indigenous communities will be uprooted if the superhighway is completed. Commented John Calvelli, executive vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s public affairs division:
“We’re particularly concerned about the communities. Without those communities, we are not going to have good stewards of our natural world.”
Some environmentalists are also concerned that the highway will make endangered wildlife more vulnerable to poachers. “Building a highway of that size through a natural park will only bring poachers closer to the wildlife,” Calvelli added.
Proponents of the development argue that the highway would add wireless infrastructure and other modern facilities currently absent from the state. One notable supporter is Cross River state governor Ben Ayade who proposed the highway last year. The project was approved by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after.
As one might surmise, conservationists are anything but pleased about the superhighway’s development. Calvelli explained:
“It is very troubling and worrisome for us that the great work that Nigeria has done to create these areas and protect them could be undermined by this [highway] development.”
Even though over 100,000 signatures were gathered on a petition to halt the superhighway’s construction, the Nigerian government has yet to respond. This situation sounds similar to what’s taking place near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are protesting the development of a four-state Dakota Access Pipeline which will uproot sacred burial ground and potentially contaminate the Missouri River. Neither is right in the eyes of many.
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