An oil disaster in our backyard

2010-06-26 14:15

On the other side of the world there is a huge environmental

disaster happening that has had most of us in a tizz for months.

The culprit, BP, has been fined billions of dollars for the oil

spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has even prompted the US president to become

personally involved.

But closer to home, just a few hours’ flight from Johannesburg, a

massive environmental disaster has been playing itself out for decades. It’s not

as if the world doesn’t know about it – it’s just that no one seems to care.

The WWF UK, the World Conservation Union and representatives from

the Nigerian federal government and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation,

calculated that up to 1.5 million tons of oil has been spilled in the Nigerian

delta over the past half century.

Nigerian government figures show that there were more than 7 000

spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2 000 official major spillage sites,

many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be

cleared up.

And it is familiar names that are involved – the likes of BP and

Shell – the petrol stations just around the corner from you and I.

The scale of the environmental damage in Nigeria is overwhelming

and the continued human rights violations heart-breaking, yet the large oil

multinationals continue their business with seeming impunity.

How long are we going to allow this to continue when we have the

power to do something about it?

As responsible citizens who care for the future of this continent

we should stop putting more money into the coffers of the oil companies until it

starts doing what it should – diverting some of its massive profits into the

clean-up of the environmental ruin it has created.

If we continue to support the oil companies, it’s as good as if our

collective fingers are on the trigger of the gun with which we are shooting

ourselves in the head.

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