WorldStage Newsonline-- Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has made a case for the protection of underwater cultural heritage in Africa.
Speaking on Tuesday at the first African Underwater Cultural Heritage Conference in Yenagoa, the governor in a speech read by the Commissioner for Culture and Ijaw National Affairs, Dr. Felix Tuodolor, said Nigeria should champion protection of underwater assets in Africa.
He said the conference was an indication that issues about environmental degradation had sunk into the national conscience.
In sustaining the fight for the protection of underwater cultural heritage, he said there was an urgent need to build a holistic approach on the issue through a synergy between national and international experts.
He said adequate research was needed to preserve such heritage observing that people lacked knowledge of the subject.
He said the people must be educated and helped to come to terms with issues surrounding underwater cultural heritage.
According to him "underwater cultural heritage encompasses all traces of human existence that lie or were lying under the water and have a cultural or historical character".
He added: "It is, therefore, noteworthy that Africans must begin to acknowledge the value of public education as a contribution to the awareness, appreciation and protection of underwater cultural heritage and its attendant recreational benefits and job creation among others".
He thanked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for holding the maiden edition of the conference in the state.
He further commended UNESCO for approving the establishment of the Underwater Cultural Research and Imaging Centre in Yenagoa.
He said his administration would make judicious use of such centre for the benefits of Nigerians, people from Bayelsa and Africa.
"I learnt that the facility when operational will be the hub of underwater research activities in Africa.
"In addition, the establishment of the centre will culminate into the immense benefit of building the capacity of our youths in the areas of underwater archaeology, scuba diving, underwater research and imaging and underwater bio technology", he said.
He said it was heart-warming to note that the Nigerian Navy, construction companies, oil companies, tourism industries, fishing and maritime industries would employ the services of youths trained in the centre.
In her remarks, Director-General, UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, said many archaeological sites were once tombs and graves that must be given due respect.
“We must also respect offering and sacrifice sites that are numerous to be found under water similar as hundreds of sunken cities,” she said.
She identified the development of activities such as trawling, oil recovery and other industrial activities as threats that must be tackled by the international community.
She said up to 97 per cent of biological information could be found on sites under water than on comparable land sites.
“What we have to realize – the exceptional witnesses of our past are often better preserved under water than many archaeological sites on land,” she said.