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Envionmental degradation in the Niger Delta


He cursed the earth for spouting oil, black gold, they called it. And he cursed the gods for not drying the oil wells. What did it matter that millions of barrels of oil were mined and exported daily, so long as this poor woman wept those tears of despair?

Night Ride (1986), Ken Saro-Wiwa

The Niger Delta is one of the world's most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems and is home to some 31 million people. Due to its rich natural resource base, environmental exploitation is rife and pollution affects the people in unprecedented ways. Oil has been extracted in the Niger Delta by the national and multinational oil companies since 1958. Oil pollution caused by oil spills and gas flaring by the oil industry devastates farmland, rivers, villages and the air. Oil pollution kills fish and their food sources, it damages agricultural land causing soil infertility and negatively impacts agricultural productivity. The government fails to formulate and effectuate proper environmental and compensation regulations. The failure of the oil companies, including Shell, Eni, Chevron, Total and ExxonMobil, to swiftly deal with oil spills exacerbates these  problems as do spills resulting from oil bunkering.

As a direct consequence of the pollution, the people of the Niger Delta are facing impoverishment, loss of livelihoods through poisoned land and fishing waters, high rates of respiratory disease and illness,  disenfranchisement and despair. Proper governmental policies to reinvest state income from oil in the Niger Delta for social and economic development are desultory. The disastrous situation in many parts of the Niger Delta violates people's rights to health and a healthy environment, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to earn a living through work.

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