Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shell oil spills in the Niger deltaNowhere and no one has escaped ...

Guardian (UK)
3 August 2011

Shell oil spills in the Niger deltaNowhere and no one has escaped ...:
John Vidal in Bodo

Two oil spills caused by Shell in 2008 have triggered ongoing social and environmental problems for the 69,000 people who live in the vicinity of Bodo

An oil wellhead in Ogoniland, Niger delta

The air stinks, the water stinks, and even the fish and crabs caught in Bodo creek smell of pure "sweet bonny" light crude oil. It has found its way deep into the village wells, it lies thick in the mud flats and there are brown and yellow slicks all along the 20 sq km network of creeks, swamps, mangrove forests and rivers that surround Bodo in the Niger delta.

The first oil ever exported from Nigeria was found just five miles away from Bodo in 1958 but, says chief Tella James, chair of Bodo's maritime workers, life for the 69,000 people who live in the vicinity changed dramatically in August 2008 when a greasy sheen was first seen deep in the Bodo swamps miles from the nearest houses.

Shell disputes that, saying that a weld broke in September 2008 in the 50-year-old, 24-inch trans-Niger pipeline that takes 120,000 barrels of oil a day at high velocity across the Niger delta. Either way the spill was not stopped until 7 November, 2008. By that time, as much as 2,000 barrels a day may have been spilled directly into the water.

One month later in December 2008, the same pipeline broke again in the swamps. This time Shell sent no one to inspect or repair it until 19 February 2009. According to oil spill assessment experts who have studied evidence of the two spills on the ground and on film, more than 280,000 barrels may have been spilled - more than the official estimates of the Exxon Valdez accident in Prince William sound, Alaska, in 1989.

Bodo is at the epicentre of several pipelines that collect oil from nearly 100 wells in the Ogoni district and there have been plenty of minor spills in and around the communities over the years. But this was far more serious, says Nenibarini Zabby, head of conservation at the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development in Port Harcourt.

"This was an exceptionally sensitive ecosystem. The spill lasted a very long time and it spread with the tides.

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