Why the Niger Delta’s Disappearing Mangrove Forests Matter

The Niger Delta possesses the third largest mangrove forest in the world and the largest within Africa. Mangrove forests are significant because they help sustain local communities due to their ecological functions. The forests provide communities with goods, such as seafood, fuel wood, dye, stakes, medicine, and healthy fisheries, along with lifeforms, such as coral reef, that promote healthy ecosystems in the seascape.
 

Photo credit: Friends of the Earth.

A destroyed mangrove forest in the Niger Delta. Photo credit: Friends of the Earth

However, the Niger Delta’s mangrove forests have been deteriorating due to oil operations within the region. Land for oil operations can be granted for use by multinational oil corporations under the Land Use Act of 1978. This law permits the Nigerian government to transfer land ownership by claiming that the transfer is in the public interest.
 

The Niger Delta red colobus is a critically endangered species due to habitat destruction. The monkey is on the brink of extinction.

The Niger Delta red colobus is a critically endangered species due to habitat destruction. The monkey is on the brink of extinction.

As a result of the implementation of the Land Use Act, extensive mangrove area in the Delta has been converted into oil facilities. The land then deteriorated due to oil pollution. Endangered species including the Delta elephant, red colobus monkey, the river hippopotamus, and crocodiles are increasingly threatened by oil exploitation. Furthermore, the oil pollution in the region has caused high mortality rates among aquatic animals, impaired human health, hastened the loss of biodiversity in breeding grounds, magnified vegetation hazards, exacerbated the loss of portable and industrial water resources, and reduced fishing and farming activity.