As the tragedy unfolds in the Gulf of Mexico after BP failed yet again to plug the leak that has been spewing oil into the ocean for well over a month, I was reminded today that leaks and spills are commonplace in some parts of the world, but receive little attention.
For example, the people of Niger delta have been living with oil-related environmental catastrophes for decades.
According to an article on The Guardian, more oil is spilled from the delta’s oil production every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico so far.
Areas of forest and farmland are covered in oil and drinking wells have been polluted. Fisheries vital to the region have been destroyed.
The Niger delta has over 600 oilfields and supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports. This oil comes at a high price – an estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Nigerian federal government figures show 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000 and there are thousands of spill sites waiting to be cleaned up; some decades old.
Over a thousand spill cases have been filed against Shell alone.
The situation is expected to get worse as the oil industry increasingly extracts the stuff from remote areas.
The Guardian article is a real eye-opener. I had heard from contacts in Nigeria that the situation wasn’t good, I just had no idea how bad.
The world has expressed outrage at the BP disaster in the Gulf, yet the Nigerian people facing their own oil environmental catastrophe get little media coverage.
The added tragedy is that while the area is so rich in oil, little of the financial benefits filter down to the people as the profits wind up in the hands of a few or go off-shore – it just adds insult to the injury.
Maybe once the dust has settled from the USA’s incident, we can turn our attention to the suffering of the environment and the people of the Niger Delta who are paying the price for our addiction to oil.