When will Shell stop these daily oil spills?

6 Aug 2011 admin

Bodo resident, journalist and human rights monitor, Patrick Naagbanton, signed off his Comment piece in The Guardian by saying:

We won’t be holding our breath.

In an environment which suffers from daily oil spills, locals have learned that the multinationals, in particular Shell, and government authorities, will get away with almost anything.

Earlier today I spoke on the phone to a contact at Friends of the Earth Nigeria, based in Bayelsa State. He told me that in the last week alone, there have been 5 recorded Shell oil spills in Ikarama community.

I visited Ikarama around this time last year. Though I wasn’t on the look out for oil pollution, my guides (an inspiring local hunter named Washington(!) and another community leader) showed me the latest example of environmental devastation that has punished the village. On 4 June 2010, equipment failure had led to a leaking valve at Shell’s Okordia manifold, spraying oil into the village. Weeks later, on 23 June, a rupture occurred along the Trans-Niger Rumuekpe Trunk line, spewing oil into Taylor Creek. Both spills were caused by Shell.

The [FoE Nigeria] team reported that the volume of the spill was at over a thousand barrels and spread over 400 metres into farm lands and other parts in the area.

Shell’s response was to send in contractors who proceeded to scoop up the oil, dump it on the other side of the road and burn it, causing further damage to the environment. Several months later when I visited there was visible evidence of the dumped and burned waste and the smell of crude oil was overpowering. Below are some pictures I took from the scene.

“These are swamps, lakes that I used to take care of my children, train them,” said local hunter, Washington Odoiybo. Washington told me how pollution from Shell had ruined his livelihood and pushed his family deeper into poverty, a common experience in this rural community:

Today, it’s hard for you to get fish from [the] bush because Shell have destroyed all our swamps with this spillage. I am bitterly annoyed because [these are] the swamps I used to fish, to train my children. Today you see me, I don’t have money because the swamps are damaged. [Even] our economic trees: I used to cut… palm fruit to [make] palm oil, to take care of my children. But today, you cannot see any palm again because the damage. After the spillage they will send the boys to burn the swamps off. The palm trees burnt off will be affected and there is no way they will bear fruit again. I am suffering today because of those things.

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