The Human & Environmental Rights Dynamic Advocacy Development Initiative, HERDADI, a nongovernmental organization has commended Bayelsa Governor Seriake Dickson on protecting the environment.
The Director of Legal Matters Barr. Kate Idumange said the Niger Delta Environment has been subjected to horrendous abuses and commended Governor Seriake Dickson for inaugurating a commission to check the diminishing value of the Bayelsa Environment owing to the activities of multinationals. She commented only on gas flaring and it impacts on the Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta as a whole.
She said " Nigeria is the highest gas flaring country in the world, with an average of Nigeria of 17.2 billion m3 of natural gas flares annually. This high level of gas flaring is approximately one-quarter of the current power consumption of the African continent.
The economic waste and health hazards posed by gas flaring is enormous. Worse still oil exploration companies have been professing zero gas flaring but they have capitalized on the weak institutions and shifted the goal post for over four decades, she reiterated.
It will be recalled that the Nigerian government has not enforced environmental regulations effectively because of the overlapping and conflicting jurisdiction of separate governmental agencies governing petroleum and the environment as well as because of non-transparent governance mechanisms.
Neither the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) nor the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has implemented anti-flaring policies for natural gas waste from oil production, nor have they monitored the emissions to ensure compliance. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) has had the authority to issue standards for water, air and land pollution and has had the authority to make regulations for oil industry.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Nigerian government’s main interest in the oil industry is to maximize its monetary profits from oil production. Oil companies find it more economically expedient to flare the natural gas and pay the insignificant fine than to re-inject the gas back into the oil wells.
Additionally, because there is an insufficient energy market especially in rural areas, oil companies do not see an economic incentive to collect the gas. Besides, there is indigenous technology deficit to embark on gas conversion.
The oil-producing communities have experienced severe marginalization and neglect. The environment and human health have frequently been a secondary consideration for oil companies and the Nigerian government. Although there may be reasons for the continuous gas flaring, there are many strong arguments suggesting that it should be stopped because of the numerous health challenges facing host communities.
Sadly, the supposed benefits are given significantly more weight by the government than the resulting damage to the environment and human health.
Gas flaring contributes to climate change, which has serious implications for both Nigeria and the rest of the world. The burning of fossil fuel, mainly coal, oil and gas-greenhouse gases-has led to warming up the world and is projected to get much, much worse during the course of the 21 st century according to the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC).
The scientific body was set up in 1988 by the UN and the World Meteorological Organization to consider climate change.
Gas flaring contributes to climate change by emission of carbon dioxide, the main
greenhouse gas. Venting of the gas without burning, a practice for which flaring seems often to be treated as a synononym, releases methane, the second main greenhouse gas. Together and crudely, these gases make up about 80% of global warming to date.
Acid rains have been linked to the activities of gas flaring. Corrugated roofs in the Delta region have been corroded by the composition of the rain that falls as a result of flaring.
The primary causes of acid rain are emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO 2) and nitrogen oxides (NO) which combine with atmospheric moisture to form sulfuric acid and nitric acid respectively. Size and environmental philosophy in the industry have very strong positive impact on the gas-flaring-related CO 2 emission.
Acid rain acidifies lakes and streams and damages vegetation. In addition, acid rain accelerates the decay of building materials and paints. Prior to falling to the earth, SO 2 and NO 2 gases and their particulate matter derivatives, sulfates and nitrates, contribute to visibility degradation and harm public health.
The flares associated with gas flaring give rise to atmospheric contaminants. These include oxides of Nitrogen, Carbon and Sulphur (NO 2, CO 2, CO, SO 2), particulate matter, hydrocarbons and ash, photochemical oxidants, and hydrogen sulphide. These contaminants acidify the soil, hence depleting soil nutrient. More often, there is no vegetation in the areas surrounding the flare due partly to the tremendous heat that is produced and acid nature of soil pH.
The effects of the changes in temperature on crops included stunted growth, scorched plants and such other effects as withered young crops. Fertility deficiency reduces the capacity for sustainable agriculture due to the acidification of the soils by the various pollutants associated with gas flaring in the area.
The health implications can better be imagined. People in and around impacted sites are exposed to hazardous air pollutants emitted during incomplete combustion of gas flare. These pollutants are associated with a variety of adverse health impacts, including cancer, neurological, reproductive and developmental effects.
They could result in deformities in children, lung damage and skin problems have also been common. Hydrocarbon compounds are known to affect blood and blood-forming cells negatively. And could give rise to anaemia pancytopenia and leukaemia.
Much of the flared gas can be converted for domestic use and it is estimated that about $2.5 billion is lost annually through gas flaring in government revenues. Gas conversation projects is capable of contributing to the foreign exchange of the country.
Herdadi urges the Bayelsa State Government to seek remedy at the ECOWAS Court or any other institutions at the international level because the Niger Delta Environment and its rich biodiversity will soon be history. This must not be allowed to happen.