Monday, September 12, 2011

UNEP Report on oil spills continues to make waves

12 September 2011

The UNEP report, which assessed decades of oil spills in the rural Ogoni area east of Port Harcourt has caused an interesting set of initial reactions from politicians, activists, oil companies and communities. President Johnathan has set up a multi- ministerial committee to draft his governments responses. Activists and communities who have long protested oil spills have still reacted with shock at the levels contamination has now reached. Oil companies have also met with government - with meetings involving normally dormant partners of the Ogoni block (Agip and Chevron share 15% of the Ogoni joint venture) taking a renewed interest in an issue which could now become a major liability for them. None of the above have made any substantial response - although the Rivers State Government has begun delivering emergency drinking water supplies to Ogale - highlighted by UNEP as having groundwater contamination at up to 900 times acceptable WHO levels.

....if government responses do not confront the full implications of the environmental damage or they simply fail to respond then they will face deeper and more informed anger over oil exploitation.
Detailed responses from government and companies are yet to come. . The international community can obviously be of assistance with technical experience and by putting pressure on companies head-quartered in their countries to face up to this reality. However, the first task is to ensure that there is a consensus that includes the Federal Government and the national oil company NNPC on the need for urgent and sustained action. There needs to be sustained multi-stakeholder action to address a broken system of oil spill response

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