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1000 Oil Spills Raid Niger Delta Yearly, Says Grou

Akanimo Sampson

Bureau Chief, Port Harcourt

1000 Oil Spills Raid Niger Delta Yearly, Says Group

FOREMOST environmental advocacy group, Environmental Rights Action (ERA) yesterday accused the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta of being economic with their records of oil spills in the region.

While official figures put oil spill occurences in the Niger Delta at 300, ERA claimed that up to 1000 oil spills occur every year in oil-bearing communities.

Executive Director of ERA, Nnimmo Bassey, who was speaking in an on-line interview with our correspondent yesterday also claimed that thousands of barrels of produced water and drilling mud are dumped into the waterways and lands of the Niger Delta. ''These portend very serious violations and expose the people and environment to severe harm'', he said.

''Apart from oil and gas'', he went on, ''mining has left serious footprints in the Nigerian environment. The abandoned tin mines of Jos, Plateau State, stand as stark reminders of the hazardous nature of extractive activities. Tailings and toxic wastes are still left unattended to''.

According to the ERA chief, ''the extractive of building materials may appear benign, but blasting of rocks in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) and limestone in Ebonyi State are known to have impacted negatively on rural environments – dusts, cracked buildings, etc. Ragged rocks in the Abuja environments have jeopardised the lives of both man and beast''.

Continuing, he said, ''coastal erosion is a major challenge in the South. This problem is aggravated by sea level rise. In some areas canalisation and movements of heavy machineries and vessels compound coastal erosion.

''In the East, gully erosion has become a nightmare to many communities. The earth literally opens its mouth eating up land and swallowing houses. It is estimated by the federal ministry of agriculture estimates that 35 million tonnes of soil are washed away by erosion annually in Nigeria, mostly by gully erosion in the southeast, where the rain forests were most severely depleted in the last three decades.

''Between 1981-1994 Nigeria has been said to have lost 3.7 million hectares of forest and farmlands to erosion and other forms of soil degradation. About 285,000 Km2, or just under a third of Nigeria's land area has been lost to this phenomenon over the past three decades.

"The situation is not only dangerous for agriculture in terms of lost farmland, there is also the threat of significant but adverse changes in weather and the soil system,"

Bassey said as pressure on land intensifies, ''communal conflicts also rise. Many environmentalists believe that the only chance of averting the looming disaster lies with halting the process of deforestation and reclaiming the land already lost. … along with its reforestation measures, announced that stiff penalties will be imposed for bush burning, which often not only depletes vegetation, but also kills off the soil's nutrients, weakens its elasticity and diminishes its capacity to resist erosion''.


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