“Our laws prohibit cutting even a single tree. I am now in the process of drafting a new law that will prohibit the use of wood for roofing. All roofing materials must be made of steel. When that happens the demand for timber will reduce”.
Even though I support the use of synthetic materials for roofing as is the case in China, the proposal by Governor Ayade has to take into consideration so many issues.
“In May 2015, while arguing with the Governor, I recommended the use of synthetic materials for sustainability and protection of the forest reserves of Cross River State”.
There are processes and timelines if such laws must be enforced. For some time now, I have watched as Governor Ben Ayade takes and enforce decisions without weighing all the options available on the table. For this law, I must appreciate the governor. But, he has to be careful the way he goes about its implementation.
The following ideas will be useful to the governor and his team:
First, no matter how environmental friendly this law will seem, the end product is that it will be looked at as anti poor peoples’ law. Therefore the Governor will have to demonstrate how he intends to eradicate woods as building materials while putting in synthetic materials as building materials.
a. The governor must start capacity building in synthetic materials development. This he can achieve by sending youths to Singapore and China, two countries that are building with synthetic materials right now. These youths will learn the technology, the techniques, the management, and actually see how this technology is used.
b. The government has to invite companies with cognate experience in synthetic wood development. I’m not talking about MoU ooo. We have plenty of that already. I mean the Governor must bring them on ground and feasibility studies conducted, and the MoU signed and short term implementation process agreed on.
c. The youths taken abroad return to lead the production of these synthetic technology. They also help in training other people in the production, distribution, use and management of such technology.
d. Government must step in to demonstrate by building modular houses using these type of technology in order to convince the people to use same.
e. Government has to step in during the sale of these new technology. The prices have to be subsidized so the poor can also afford.
Secondly, the transition from the wood roofing economy to synthetic materials is very wide. Like all technology, there are those who will fight against it. And there are those we call the fast supporters and ready consumers. There are those who romance between the first and the last. But in all, the government has to be patient and mass or public education is important.
The following are steps important:
a. The government does not need to enforce a total compliance in using synthetic. What the government needs is to ensure a clamp down on deforestation. This will naturally increase the cost of wood and people will automatically start to patronize the synthetic materials.
b. The government has to make sure there are several companies ready to set up location not just in Calabar but across the State.
c. The mass production of synthetic materials across the State will go a long way to also employ labour and help train and transfer the technology.
Thirdly, this is not a perfect and comprehensive method to use in implementing government effort at curtailing illegal deforestation and introducing the synthetic materials. Government must also be willing to engage:
a. All environmental activists
b. Pressure groups
c. Communities housing the forest reserves in the State.
d. And all friends of the environment.
e. Most importantly, the governor has to balance between major deforestation of woods as a means of coal, firewood for cooking and heating energy.
f. The governor will consider distributing gas tanks to citizens so that they will stop using wood for cooking.
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