LAGOS, Nigeria - A region of Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta is suffering widespread ecological damage as spilled oil seeps into its drinking water, destroys plants, and remains in the ground for decades, according to a UN report released yesterday.
The report said it will take as long as 30 years to clean the oil-stained Ogoniland area within Nigeria’s Niger Delta, a region of swamps, mangroves, and creeks almost the size of South Carolina. The world body suggested the Nigerian government and the oil industry set up an initial $1 billion trust fund for the cleanup.
However, environmental cleanup remains an afterthought in Africa’s most populous nation as oil revenues fund a corrupt government dependent on production. Cleaning up the more than 600-mile region would be a challenge for any government, the report acknowledged.
“The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long-term oil cleanup exercise ever undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health,’’ the body said in a statement.
Though production in Ogoniland stopped in 1993, pipelines and flow stations operated by a subsidiary of
Oil spills from those sites, caused by aging pipelines and vandalism, have devastated the land, the UN found. In one case, the United Nations found a village where drinking water was polluted with benzene 900 times higher than the international limit.