This morning, about oil, I learned that if you burn the pools from an oil spill and seal off the hole in the earth, you have only made things worse. The burning releases fumes, vapors and toxins, and leaves a denser crude behind.
Still, this is a common method of clean up for many villages in Nigeria, according to a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“The land is devastated. The drinking water and streams are polluted. As it rains, we use the rain water but cannot drink it, because even that is full of crude oil,” youth leader Amstel Monday Ebarakpor told IRIN.
“At every groundwater intrusion, you see seepage. Sometimes you can see oil sheen on drinking water,” he told IRIN. “Crude will be there for the next 50 years.”
Just to repeat: Sometimes you can see an oil sheen on the drinking water.
On 25 January the chairman of the government’s National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, Bamidele Ajakaiye, told Nigeria’s Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology that there are 1,150 abandoned oil spill sites in the Niger Delta region. Many, communities say, are cleaned like the one in Kedere - if at all.
There seem to be a lot of factors at work.
The largest is the growing unrest in that region. I've written about Nigeria before... Local people steal oil from pipelines to sell on the black market or to heat their homes -- as one would imagine, this is not a very safe practice. Also sabotage against the oil companies is occurring frequently as communities protest the discrepancy between what is being taken from the land and what is being given back to the people of the land. Also -- pipelines are really old. Also -- in the realm of things that are never reported -- doesn't it stand to reason that if the huge oil companies are responding to guerrilla style warfare that by killing and crippling the surrounding lands and people they would be engaging in their own warfare...
I noticed in the news coverage last year the language of the stories reported made the issue sound very much like a band of thieves and hooligans were set on messing things up for everyone. It concerned me then -- and then the coverage fell off all together. The UN report was picked up be Reuters, but I didn't see it in the Times, and a Google search didn't show it as appearing in any major newspaper.
President Bush will be traveling to Africa this month.
Posted today, on what looks to be a newsish site -- though I can't really decipher, because it's all in Portuguese (I think) -- is a letter to our President.
Greetings from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) of Nigeria. We trust this letter will reach you and your entourage touring some African countries well.
MEND needs little introduction to you since you must have been briefed after the actions we have taken to address the injustice in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria may have affected the oil dependent American economy.
Your trip to Africa comes at an opportune time and indicates the soft spot you have for the people of this great continent. Africa is facing several on going conflicts, almost all are avoidable. Nigeria is at the verge of entering its own mega-conflict even though everyone seems to be in denial. When Nigeria erupts, the lava will spread so fast, far and wide that the human and economic catastrophe will dwarf Darfur."
The letter goes on to outline a proposal for action. It doesn't sound like the kind of letter I would be reading if I was president of the United States.
I wonder if President Bush will read this letter.
I wonder if oil is being used deliberately as chemical warfare.
But really, isn't it hard to imagine a group of pissed off American or European oil workers, hot and sick of being messed with, not saying...
Photo: Dulue Mbachu IRIN photo
Environmental damage from an oil spill in Kegbara-Dere in the Ogoni district of the Niger Delta. Residents say the spill is more than 10 years old and has not been cleaned up.