UN welcomes Nigerian govt's decision to clean up major oil contamination

Thursday, August 02, 2012
Ogoniland, Nigeria: The United Nations has welcomed the decision by the Nigerian government to clean up a major oil contamination in the Ogoniland region in the country.

The decision comes twelve months after the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) presented a scientific assessment of oil pollution in Ogoniland to the Government, underlining serious public health and environmental impacts.

In a news release, UNEP's Executive Director, Achim Steiner said the move was "a welcome development for the people and the environment of this region who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the legacy of some 50 years of unsustainable oil exploration and production".

In late July, the Nigerian Government announced that it would establish the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, a government initiative that would fully implement UNEP's assessment report to clean-up the area.

The independent scientific assessment, carried out over a 14-month period, showed greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.

The assessment emphasized the need for swift action to prevent the pollution footprint from spreading further and exacerbating the situation for the Ogoni people, and had proposed an initial sum of $1 billion to cover the first five years of clean-up operations.

It had also estimated that while some on-the-ground results could be immediate, a fully sustainable recovery of Ogoniland could take 25 to 30 years and would require long-term financing.

UNEP has held discussions with Nigerian environment officials over recent weeks on how to implement the assessment's recommendations. 

- UNifeed/UNEP
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