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UN calls for initial $1 billion dollar fund to clean up oil pollution

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-08-04

A UN report released on Thursday urged the Nigerian government and the oil industry to set up a $1 billion trust fund to clean-up a region of the Niger Delta damaged by decades of oil pollution.

REUTERS - Nigeria’s Ogoniland in the oil-rich Niger Delta has suffered 50 years of pollution and could need the world’s largest ever oil clean-up, which will cost an initial $1 billion and may take 30 years, the United Nations said in a report on Thursday.

Royal Dutch Shell was the largest operator in Ogoniland prior to being forced out by communities in 1993 who said the company destroyed fishing communities with pollution.

While Shell does not operate in Ogoniland anymore, its pipelines and other infrastructure remain and still suffer spillages and sabotage attacks. This week Shell took responsibility for two leaks in the region that took place in 2008 and 2009.

"The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken," a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report said.

UNEP said drinking water in some areas was contaminated so seriously it needed immediate emergency action. The findings were undertaken over a 14-month period, surveyed 122 km (76 miles) of pipeline rights of way, reviewing more than 5,000 medical records and engaging over 23,000 people at local meetings.

The report is the most detailed scientific study on any area in the Niger Delta, the heartland of Africa’s largest oil industry, UNEP and rights groups said. It was paid for partly by Shell after a request by the government.

"SPDC (Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria) welcomes the submission of the UNEP report to the Nigerian government. We will study the contents carefully and will comment further once we have done so," a spokeswoman told Reuters by e-mail.

Shell has said most oil spills in the Niger Delta are caused by oil theft and sabotage attacks but says it cleans up whatever the cause.

Amnesty International, a rights group actively involved in Niger Delta environmental problems, said the report proved the Anglo-Dutch major was responsible for the pollution.

"This report proves Shell has had a terrible impact in Nigeria, but has got away with denying it for decades, falsely claiming they work to best international standards," said Amnesty International Global Issues Director, Audrey Gaughran.

"Shell must put its hands up, and face the fact that it has to deal with the damage it has caused. Trying to hide behind the actions of others, when Shell is the most powerful actor on the scene, simply won’t wash," Gaughran added.

Date created : 2011-08-04