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How Oil Spillage Promotes Niger Delta Deterioration – Halimat Karkat

Nigeria’s Niger Delta is prominently known to have the second-largest oil field in the world. It is also one of the most polluted areas in the the West African country. After over 50 years of oil production by multinational and indigenous oil companies, the Niger Delta environment is now heavily contaminated.

This is due to oil spillage which is usually caused by oil sabotage, pipeline vandalization, and tanker accidents. Yet there has been no strong effort by both the government and oil operators to fix this mishap.

Since the discovery and commercial production of oil in Nigeria, there has been a drastic increase in the pollution of the land. Some 13 million tonnes of crude oil has been spilled over the years. This hazard has caused many environmental challenges such as poisoned water sources, destruction of agricultural lands and vegetation.

The impact of this wreck has displaced animals, endangered fish hatcheries, led to a lack of agricultural sustainability, and has also ruined the infrastructure and the economy of towns in the Niger state. These effects are long term and could be felt for decades.

Oil spillage has a major impact on the ecosystem of the niger delta area. The affected communities are severely hit by this because many mangrove ecosystems have been wiped out due to this disaster. Spills in the affected areas often spread across to other areas besides the oil fields which destroy crops and habitat for land animals.

In communities that rely on crop sustenance from farming on agricultural lands, there has been a massive reduction in crop yield causing food supply to depreciate. When the oil is spilled into the water sources, aquatic animals are greatly affected, this is associated with the death of fishes. Another impact is the lack of water for the residents of the community. Because most communities do not have adequate water supply their major sources have been destroyed due to the negligence of these oil operators.

Evaporation of oil occurs when oil is broken down by sunlight creating aerosols in the atmosphere and releasing dangerous air pollutants therefore promoting air pollution. This can affect the respiratory organs of humans. Not surprisingly, people in the affected areas report breathing problems. Hence the health of the people surrounded in the region should be a major concern.

Gas flaring introduces toxic materials into the atmosphere, this will contribute to climate change because it generates greenhouse gases. The emission of greenhouse gases promotes the depletion of the ozone layer. These air contaminants can also lead to acid rain.

The regulation on the oil industry in the Niger Delta area is weak. According to a recent study by Shell in 2011, the amount of oil spills in the Niger Delta is around 17.5 million liters. Even now there has been no factual implementation put in place to adequately eradicate this problem.

In the long run, pollution will harm the biodiversity of the affected areas. The UNEP project team presented reports with science-based evidence to back up this biodiversity conversation. Additionally, the influence on biodiversity will cause the economy to wither and for that reason, they would have to rely primarily on the government for assistance.

Biological remediation has been implemented to detoxify, remove organic and inorganic xenobiotic compounds from the environment. To restore the ecosystems damaged by oil fields.

Environmental protection agencies have not done their role in protecting these affected communities due to inadequate funds. Funding of these agencies so they can significantly be of service to the community, this will be one way forward.

The Department of Petroleum (DPR) should enforce strict policies that allow the oil operators to maintain pipelines and tankers, this is geared towards the reduction of corrosion associated with these pipelines. By enforcing laws and policies that protect the oil-producing regions of the Niger Delta, oil producers should be prompt to clean up affected areas once spillage has occurred.

The use of satellites and other tracking technologies can function to detect places where oil has been spilled. When an oil spill is traced quickly it is easier to save the biodiversity and the ecosystem of the area without creating long-term effects that could cause the communities to suffer.

In conclusion, having stated all the facts, effects, and solutions to the issue of oil spillage in the Niger Delta Region, recovery can be reached with conscious efforts jointly by the Government (States and Federal levels) and the oil majors doing business in the region with the use of their corporate social responsibilities (CSR).

Halimat Karkat is a third year student of Biochemistry, University of Ottawa, Canada.

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