Gas Flaring linked to Acid Rain: Climatologist Warns

25 Mar 2010 admin

Gas currently being flared in Nigeria’s oil fields is polluting the Niger Delta with a ‘huge quantity’ of toxins which are a major cause of acid rain, claims an international professor. The finding could overturn years of skepticism from oil companies and government officials, who regularly downplay the impact of  flaring on communities. As the African Press Agency reports:

Raymond Anyadike, a professor of climatology at the Department of Geography of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, told journalists on Thursday… that acid rain could only fall within the Niger Delta region because of the huge quantity of sulphuric dioxide and methane in the air as a result of gas flaring.

“The government should direct oil companies to embrace gas re-injection in which gas is capped instead of flaring,’’ Anyadike advised.

Gas flaring creates thick plumes of smoke across the Niger Delta region, releasing over 250 identifiable toxins, and contributing more CO2 to the atmosphere than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa combined. The question of who should pay for the widespread environmental and health costs of gas flaring is yet to be determined. Some communities in Nigeria have lived beside flares for over three decades, and many people have no choice but to use water that is contaminated by acid rainfall and other pollutants to drink and bathe.

Professor Anyadike, who is one of the founders of the Nigerian National Committee on Climate Change, also warned that climate change is inducing freak weather patterns in Nigeria that could disrupt this year’s harvests.

Shell, the largest oil company in the region, continues to deny that the wasteful practise of gas flaring is linked to anything but the slightest environmental damage. Nick Wood, Vice President of Communications at Shell says:

The World Bank has reported that the environmental and health significance of gas flaring in the Niger Delta was low. Any negative effects of flaring are confined to the immediate vicinity of the flare and will have little or no impact on the health of the local populations.

Local communities and environmental rights groups including activists from the Ogoni people have long been calling for an end to gas flaring as one of the major grievances against oil multinationals such as Shell and Chevron. Thus far, the oil companies have made little progress, blaming a lack of funding on the Nigerian government, which is a partner in the joint-ventures.

Gas flaring has been outlawed in Nigeria since 1984, but it is currently cheaper for oil companies to pay the insignificant fines than to invest in stopping the practice.

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