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UN environmental assessment of Ogoniland

In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (“UNEP”) carried out a thorough Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland and published a detailed report of its findings. UNEP’s report found that the environment in Bodo, and other parts of Ogoniland, had been devastated by oil spills over a number of years. UNEP’s investigators concluded that Shell Petroleum Development Company (Nigeria) Ltd (“SPDC”) had failed to control and maintain its oil infrastructure in Ogoniland, which led to environmental damage and serious risks to the public.

Oil pollution in Niger DeltaTo carry out the report, UNEP researchers surveyed pipelines and visited oil spill sites throughout Ogoniland, including in the Bodo creek. The UNEP researchers found that oil contamination “is widespread and severely impacting many components of the environment.”  The report noted that oil spills occur with “alarming regularity” and highlighted the chronic oil pollution (left) that local communities have to endure and live with every day.

The UNEP researchers found that in many parts of Ogoniland, groundwater and soil are heavily contaminated as a result of the oil spills.  Creeks are severely contaminated and vegetation has been damaged or destroyed by spilt oil.  UNEP’s report set out that local people are dangerously exposed to high levels of hydrocarbons in their drinking water and the outdoor air.  The report found that water in some drinking wells was over 1,000 times higher than is permitted under Nigerian drinking water standards.

UNEP’s researchers were critical about the clean-up operations that have been carried out by SPDC in Ogoniland.  UNEP found that SPDC was slow to respond to spills and that clean-up was often inadequate and ineffective.

UNEP’s report concluded: “The study concludes that the control, maintenance and decommissioning of oilfield infrastructure in Ogoniland are inadequate. Industry best practices and SPDC’s own procedures have not been applied, creating public safety issues” and “potentially disastrous environmental consequences.”

The UNEP report laid out a series of recommendations for oil operators in the region, including appropriate methods for clean-up and remediation of the sites.  These recommendations for clean-up and remediation have not yet been followed in Bodo.

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