Nigeria is proposing a six-lane highway that would cut through the rainforest in the country’s southeastern region. The planned 162-mile long highway project would also clear six miles of land on either side of the roadway, which will run through Cross River state. The potential for destruction is massive, as conservationists say the affected area is home to large numbers of indigenous people as well as rare wildlife and flora.
Opponents of the highway project say at least 180 indigenous communities would be impacted by the construction. The proposed highway route goes through a national park and forest reserves, which are home to a number of endangered species. The region is a documented territory for the rare Cross River gorilla, chimpanzees, forest elephants and pangolins.
The Cross River state governor Ben Ayade initially proposed the highway, which would draw a line between northern Nigeria and a southern seaport on the Atlantic Ocean. Along with transportation, the project would add wireless infrastructure and other modern facilities currently absent from the state. The project was approved over a year ago by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and, since then, conservationists have been fighting to stop it.
“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,” said John Calvelli, executive vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s public affairs division. That organization hosted a petition that gathered some 100,081 signatures as of December 13 in opposition to the highway project, but the government’s response is yet to be seen.