photo via flickr
While the Gulf Coast is just learning about the horrible impacts from oil drilling, the residents of Niger delta have completed a masterclass. For decades, the region has been beset by environmental devastation at the hands of Royal Dutch Shell, which has been harvesting crude oil in the delta while spilling untold amounts. But now a three-year investigation by the United Nations, funded by Shell, has almost entirely exonerated the oil giant from any wrong doing. The investigation found that only 10 percent of oil pollution in Ogoniland in the Delta has been caused by company negligence. The rest, the report says, comes from damage done by locals performing sabotage and theft. That's a bit like blaming a starving man for stealing a loaf of bread.
The damage done from oil drilling in the delta frist came to the world's attention in 1995 when Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders who were hanged by the Nigerian government after they organized peaceful protests against Shell.
When Americans think of oil importing, most think of Saudi Arabia, but the Niger delta supplies 40% of the crude oil imported here. Yet despite the huge wealth available from its natural resources, life expectancy in the delta is about 40 years old.
About the decision, Ben Amunwa of London-based oil watchdog group Platform said:
"The UNEP study relies on bogus figures from Shell and incomplete government records. Many Ogoni suspect that the report's focus on sabotage and bunkering will be used to justify military repression notorious in the Niger delta, where non-violent activists, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed."
More on the Niger Delta:
Gulf Spill Just A Drop In The Bucket Compared To What Happens Every Day, Everywhere Else
Beyond the Gulf Oil Spill: Five Ongoing Ecological Disasters With No End In Sight