One of many oil spills – from leaky pipelines in South Sudan
Photo credit: Department of HSE, South Sudan Petroleum Authority, Ministry of Petroleum.
In May, 2018, the United Nation‘s Environment Programme published the Government of South Sudan‘s First State of Environment Report and Outlook.
From literally its first page on, the report details what such environmental and human rights organizations as Germany‘s Sign of Hope have been saying for many years:
The ruthless and reckless practices engaged in by South Sudan‘s oil industry have resulted in the widespread contamination of the country‘s ground water and land, with a corresponding devastation of life, livelihood and environment.
Summary of report
Carcinogens and other toxic chemicals and substances from oil spills, leakages and wastes are causing South Sudan to experience an epidemic of miscarriages, birth defects, neurodegeneration, cancer, cardiovascular disorders and sexual dysfunctions; and the widespread destruction of livestock, livelihoods, villages, agricultural land and habitats. This has been associated with the “economic cleansing” of oil producing areas — the forcible displacement of more than 700,000 local residents.
South Sudan’s oil industry, its practices and their pollution-caused hunger, thirst, health damaging and poverty have thus been a prime driver of refugee flight.
The report‘s first page contains the foreword written by South Sudan‘s president Salva Kiir. Its stunning confession:
“The lack of environmental standards and guidelines to safeguard the exploration and exploitation in the extractive industry has led to pollution in the oil fields and in the surrounding areas. This trend needs to be checked through the formulation of environmental policies, standards and guidelines, and enforcement of these instruments.”
Excerpts from the report:
Destruction of the Sudd, one of the world’s largest and most biodiverse wetlands, and of other habitats
In addition, pollution from the development of the oil industry, particularly in the Unity and Upper Nile States, poses serious threats to wetlands and fisheries (MOE, 2016). For example, spillage during oil exploration and the overuse of agrochemicals threaten the Sudd wetlands with pollution and eutrophication (MOE, 2014).
Oil’s poisonous spillover on to South Sudan’s environment
Exploration and oil drilling activities are accompanied by chemicals, drilling muds, toxic produced water and oil spills that pollute the environment in and around oil fields.
Oil wastes’ tragic toll:
Deadly water – containing lead and other carcinogens and other toxic materials
Contaminated soil and water has been an on-going concern in South Sudan’s oil fields, responsible for livestock deaths, burned grasses and trees, and unsightly open pits. An analysis of water samples taken from open mud pits near the Thar Jath oilfield in the former Unity State contained high concentrations of salts, mostly potassium chloride, implying that the drilling fluids in these mud pits were not removed after the drilling process was completed. Community water wells have also been found to contain high levels of heavy metals such as lead, which are well known carcinogens. These are all attributed to the oil extraction activities and poor waste-disposal procedures (Cordaid, 2014).
“Economic cleansing” of hundreds of thousands of residents
Oil exploration and development activities may require the eviction of communities residing in the environment in which oil is discovered. This results in the loss of traditional livelihoods, grazing lands, ancestral homes and in many cases, sites of cultural significance. Forceful eviction has been known to happen.
For example, in 1999 when exploration first started in Block 5A in the former Unity State, there was massive displacement of the indigenous Nuer people. Then between 1998 and 2001, about 204,500 people were displaced from oil fields in Western Upper Nile (Fallet, 2010). There are other indications that almost 500,000 people were displaced from the oil-rich areas in the former Unity State between 1997 and 2003 (ECOS, 2010).
One of the impacts of forced displacement is the change in land use as land that was previously used for farming and livestock is abandoned. Subsequently,
Oil production activities result in unplanned settlements, exploitation of natural resources, such as deforestation, and the building of new access routes.
This has affected local activities and livelihood activities such as agriculture, fishing, logging and hunting. For instance, after the war in 2005 a number of
villages in Melut in the former Upper Nile State were completely lost and replaced entirely with oil rigs and other geological equipment.
The tale of satellite photos: heavy metals leaking from pipelines and refineries poison groundwater
These images show the expansion of the Jath Oil Field between 1999 and 2016.The Thar Jath oil extraction plant in South Sudan’s Unity state was abandoned by the oil company in late 2013. Four months later, civil war broke out across the country. Heavy metals, from leaking pipelines and refineries and damage from fighting, have leaked into the groundwater. The green color generally represents vegetation, brown: human settlements or fields, and dark blue: water.
Conflicts between communities and oil companies
Conflict is also an issue at the local level of government. There is considerable mistrust between local communities and oil companies regarding the adverse repercussions of oil exploration and extraction activities, such as dispossession of land, impacts of pollution on the environment and human health, and lack of services. For instance, in Pariang County in Unity State, there are frequent conflicts between communities and the oil companies due to inadequate consultation before oil works are undertaken, creating conflict when land is possessed or houses demolished. There is also frustration when oil companies fail to build promised houses, schools, clinics or roads.
Oil pollutants’ deadly toll: infertility, miscarriages, birth defects and many more afflictions
The literature indicates that pollutants from the oil extractive industry are likely to have led to emerging health problems, include-ing rising rates of female infertility, increases in the number of miscarriages, birth defects, and eye and skin problems (Cordaid, 2014); (NBS, 2014). Noxious smells and smoke are also an issue, causing discomfort and distress to people living in or close to production oil fields (Cordaid, 2014). Research shows that health workers in Melut and Koch indicate a positive correlation between these health issues and increased pollution from the oil industry (Cordaid, 2014); (NBS, 2014). A study in 2014 showed that 88.5 percent of the women in the oil producing areas had delivered babies with birth defects (NBS, 2014). Studies in the U.S. State of Colorado indicate a correlation with proximity to oil and gas fields; and the occurrence of congenital heart defects and neural tube defects in infants (McKenzie et al., 2014).
Exposure to cancerous petrochemicals
The Mala oilfield shows signs of pipe leakage (Nenadic & Koehlere, 2015). Oil spills from leaking pipelines, refineries or corroded or aging equipment and damage from fighting is common and has increased exposure to cancerous petrochemicals in the oil producing areas (MOE, 2014).
Carcinogens and birth defects from illegal gas flarin
Emissions from gas flaring are also a significant environmental issue. During the mining process, gas that is produced along with the oil is flared or re-injected (WEC, 2013), although there is a law regulating against this. The emissions from gas flaring are the products of incomplete combustion. In oil field conditions, many particulates and other harmful gases are dispersed into the air. Some of these hazardous hydrocarbons include benzene, styrene, ethynyl benzene, ethynyl-methyl benzenes, toluene, xylenes, acenaphthalene, biphenyl and fluorine (Strosher, 2000).
Some of these are well known carcinogens, while others are thought to contribute to complications in fetuses (Nikiforuk, 2014).
Pollution by oil spills of farmland and of Sudd
Soil pollution by oil spills and produced water further compounds the situation. This has been the case in Rubkona County in Northern Liech State, which lies within the Sudd wetland’s floodplain and is fertile land for agriculture.
Deforestation and loss of biodiversity through oil extraction
The development of oil extraction sites requires deforestation and destroys natural wildlife habitat, contributing to the loss of terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. As well, the dangerous and unprotected pits filled with produced water or crude oil, as well as the thousands of earth holes dug for various purposes by the oil companies, are a serious threat to the safety of the people and their livestock, and contribute to land degradation.
Rising against radioactive, toxic contamination of South Sudan
Officials are now joining residents in protesting the environmental crimes committed by profits-blinded oil companies
Newest cause for concern: cancer-causing radioactive wastes!
By Francis Michael, We Are Witness
Plug County is located in the Melut Basin, home to South Sudan’s most productive – and hence polluting – oil fields. In view of this proximity, it is no wonder that Plug has become a focal point of the South Sudanese rising against the oil companies responsible for the poisoning of their lands and thus their lives.
Babies born with birth defects and life-threatening infections, children afflicted with devastating skin diseases, the widespread death of livestock – the list of complaints repeatedly voiced by the people of Plug is long. Recipient of their pleas has been the government of South Sudan, which has completely failed to act upon them – or even respond to them.
The causes of these afflictions are oil wastes and containers containing toxic chemicals. Both stem from oil companies, states Lual Baige, formerly the minister of information for Northern Upper Nile state.
Such containers were transported in late 2017 to the region by the Petrodar oil consortium, which then abandoned them to the elements. The result: leakages of what residents believe to be toxic materials.
The residents have been joined in their protests by regional officials, who brought the matter to the attention of South Sudan’s Legislative Assembly. At a hearing held in it, the officials called upon the Ministry of Petroleum to launch an investigation. To no avail – even though the country’s parliament confirmed the existence of a crisis.
This confirmation was based upon an assessment of the health of the population and state of the environment allegedly conducted by South Sudan’s National Health Laboratory, which is stated to have produced a report on it.
This report, however, was never released.
As Chol Ayeek Dau, the former Commissioner of Melut County states, oil wastes are largely responsible for the health crisis in the region.
As he reports, the residents rely on their wells for water, and this is poisoned with heavy metals, salts and other noxious chemicals stemming from oil wastes. Also containing radioactive materials, the water is drunk by the people and their livestock, and spread on fields. Much of the livestock that doesn’t immediately die is subsequently killed by ingesting fodder that took up these contaminants.
Deng Akui Kak is the governor of Northern Upper Nile state. He states that the chemicals seeping from the containers have most dramatically affected the health of the children and the elderly living in the villages of Plug, Molita, Jumori and Adar. All of these are located near the Falluj oil field.
After failing to get parliamentary redress – or any form of response by the government, the local population is now threatening to blockade the oil fields. These would shut them down. The population’s demand: the conducting of further, more extensive tests, and the release of the final report on the chemical containers scandal.
Speaking anonymously (to protect their lives), medical officials working in the Falluj area paint a horrific picture.
Each month, the officials state, brings two to three births of deformed children. Most of them die immediately. Surviving children have to live with skin diseases. Rather than addressing this matter – by providing health care – the government of South Sudan has taken a simpler, effective approach: forbidding medical personnel’s mentioning of this crisis.
In store for South Sudan: generations of cancer and congenital malformations
And worse, far worse is in store for South Sudan, states Dr. Jalvan Samson Oyay, professor of physics at the University of Upper Nile.
As Professor Oyay puts out, it takes five to ten years for substances used in the production of oil to make their malevolent presence felt in local population’s health. “We are in the phase of pre-emergence of widespread cancer and congenital malformations,” he states.
The radioactivity responsible for these malignancies is produced by the uranium, potassium and thorium found in the Melut Basin. These materials are leached from the subsoils by the chemicals and water used to ease and expedite the oil pumping process. The resultant toxic, radioactive sludge is then left by oil companies to seep into the ambient environment, states Dr. Galvan, whose dissertation was on this process.
Officials at South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and workers on the oil rigs in the Plug region also report suffering from skin and eye-diseases, and have also lodged complaints with the government and Petrodar. Officials at the latter confirmed the receipt of these complaints, but refused to address any other environmental matters.
Main shareholders of the PetroDar consortium are China National Petroleum Corporation (41%) and Malaysia’s Petronas (40%).
is based in South Sudan and covers political, cultural and environmental affairs. In addition to South Sudanese newspapers and radio stations and to forsouthsudan.com, he contributes to theniles.com and andariya. He also works as a researcher at the Diversity Center for Strategic Studies, and is a member of the Upper Nile University’s Environmental Society.
جنوب السودان : التكتم على أضرار البيئية الناجم من مخلفات إنتاج النفط في منطقة فلوج
فلوج : فرانسيس مايكل
يعتمد جمهورية جنوب السودان في إقتصادها على النفط ، لكن عمليات الإنتاج لها أثار ومخاطر على البيئة ، وتلقى بتاثيرات سلبية على الإنسان والتربة والحيوان في مناطق إنتاج النفط حيث تتجاهل الحكومة هذه التاثيرات البيئية في منطقة فلوج في ولاية شمال اعالى النيل حسب التقسيم الإداري الجديد.
السكان في منطقة فلوج المنتجة لنفظ في إقليم أعالى النيل ، يشتكون من التلوث البيئي ، ونفوق المواشي وولادة أجنة مشوة و ظهور أمراض جلدية تصيب المواطنين خاصتاً الأطفال ، وهي مطالب لم تجد حلا ، وأصبحوا ضحايا مخلفات النفط.
وزير الإعلام سابقاً في ولاية شمال أعالى النيل لوال بيج ، يقول إن الأضرار البيئية ا الناتجة من مُخلفات البترولية في منطقة فلوج ، هي في حالة التذايد نتيجة لعدم إهتمام الشركات بالبيئية ، خاصتا عثب قيام هذه الشركات بإدخال حاويات كيميائية منتهية الصلاحية ، محذراً من خطورة هذا المواد في المنطقة في وقت سابق.
في أواخر عام 2017 قامت الشركة المنتجة للنفط بإدخال حاويات محملة بمواد كيميائية منتهية الصلاحية الى فلوج ، هذه المواد تركت مكشوفة للرياح والأمطار ، ويعتقد السكان إنها تحمل مواد سامة ، وتم إثارة القضية من قبل مسؤولي المنطقة أمام البرلمان القومي ، وطالبوا وزارة النفط القومي بفتح التحقيق مع الشركات النفطية حتى لا تلاحق الضرر بالمواطنين. لكن القضية أنتهت دون حلول لها امام منضد البرلمان.
المواطنين في منطقة فلوج وأبقارهم هم ضحايا هذه التلوث البيئي ، حيث يعتمدون على الزراعة والراعي الأبقار في مراعي الطبيعية بالقرب من أبار النفط ، ويتغذاء الأبقار على العلاف بها مواد كيميائية نتيجة لتلوث التربة بمواد المشعة من المواد المستخدمة في إنتاج النفط ، بجانب إستخدامهم لحوم الأبقار في الأكل ، كل هذا لها تاثيرات سلبية على المواطنين.
ويوجه محافظ مقاطعة ملوط سابقاً شول أييك داو ، إنتقادات للسلطات الحكومية في جنوب الاسودان لعدم الإستجابة لتقارير التى تفيد بوجود التلوث البيئي في المنطقة ، رغم تاكيدات البرلمان و صح فحوصات معملية أجرها الصحة القومي بوجود أمراض جدلية بسبب مخلفات النفط.
ويضيف داو ، ان حاكم الولاية دينق أكوي ، لا يريد إثارة القضية في إشارة الىمصلحته السياسية في المنطقة ، مبيناً ان قضية حاويات الكيميائية أدت الى ظهور أمراض وسط كبار السن والأطفال في القرى فلوج ومليتا وجمري وعدار ، وهي قرى تقع بالقرب من أبار إنتاج النفط بفلوج.
السكان في فلوج ، هددو في وقت سابق بإيقاف إنتاج النفط مالم يتدخل الحكومة واجراء تحقيقات واسع في المنطقة بشان الحاويات كيمياوية الذي تم إلقاءها في الأحراش ، وهذا المواد تشمل كلوريد البوتاسيوم تم القاءها في منطقة ساحة جمري في أغسطس العام الماضي ، لكن الحكومة القومية لم تقوم بنشر التقارير النهائية بشان هذه الحاويات.
في منطقة فلوج المنتجة لنفط في جنوب السودان ، يتم ولادة إثنين أو ثلاثة أجنة مشوه شهرياً ، بالإضاف الى نفوق الماشية نتيجة لتلوث المراعي الطبيعية الذي يعتمد عليه سكان القرى التى تقع بالقرب من ابار النفط ، يقول مسؤولي طبي يعمل في فلوج رفض الكشف عن هويته للأسباب أمنية ، السلطات الحكومية لم تقوم بالكشف عن هذه الحالات.
ويضيف المصدر الطبي ، إن كثير من الأطفال الذين يتم ولادتهم بتشوهات يموتون في الحال مشيراً الى أن معظم الأمراض الجلدية ليس لها علاج بسبب ضعف الخدمات الصحية التى تقدمها الحكومة للمواطنين.
الدكتور جالفان سامسون أوياي أستاذ فيزياء بجامعة أعالى النيل ، في حديثه يقول إن عمليات التلوث البيئي والإشعاعي في منطقة فلوج تسبب في العديد من الأمراض مثل السرطان والتشوهات الخلقية وان أثار تلك المواد المستخدم في إنتاج النفط ، تظهر بعد فترة تمتد لخمس سنوات الى عشرة سنوات وهي فترة يعرف بالكمون قبل ظهور المرض حسب تعبيره.
ويقول الدكتور جالفان ، الحاصل على دكتور في الإشعاعات المنبعثة من التربة في منطقة فلوج ، إن المواد الكيميائية المرتبطة بإنتاج النفط “اليورانيوم والبوتاسيوم والثوريوم” والذي يخرج مع إستخراج البترول هي مواد مشعة ومضر بصحة الكائنات الحية وتؤدي الى ظهور أمراض خبيثة.
مسؤولي قطاع البيئة بوزارة النفط في جنوب السودان ، يشكون أيضاً من صعوبات تواجهم في حماية البئية في مناطق النفط خاصتاً العالمين في هذا المجال حيث ان العديد من العمال يتلقون إصابات بامراض جلدية ناتجة من سؤ إستخدام مخلفات البترولية وهذا ما أكدتة مسؤول البئية بالوزارة ديفيد دود هذا العام.
وقال مسؤولي بقسم البيئة بشركة بترودار ، رفض الكشف عن هويته ، إن العديد من العالمين في قطاع النفط في منطقة فلوج معرضون لخطر الإصابة بامراض ناجمة من مخلفات البترول ، وأن العديد من الإصابات بداءت تظهر مثل أمراض جلدية وأمراض العيون ، بالإضافة الى إضرار بيئية لسكان المنطقة ، لكن المسؤولين يرفضون الحديث عن الأثار البيئية لسكان المحليين
فتح باب التحقيق عن أضرار الناجم من التلوث البيئي في منطقة فلوج او حصول على المعلومات من الشركة ، هي بمثابة جحيم أخر يقول مسؤولي شركة الدار للبترول وهي مجموعة من شركات الصينية والماليزية وتضم شركة “سينوبك ، سي إن بي سي” الصينيتين و وبتروناس الماليزية ، وشركة وشركة النيل للعمليات البترول والنفط “نايل بيت” جنوب السودان وشركة تراي أوشن المصرية للطاقة.
Residents report spates of deformed children, birth complications and sexual dysfunctions
Desperate appeals by residents
by Joseph Oduha
“Most births nowadays yield deformed infants. The births themselves are complicated and painful. We men are becoming sexually dysfunctional. This is all due to the contamination of our water by oil wastes,” testifies Nyuot Gatwich.
He adds: “I call upon President Salva Kiir to come to us and see what life is like for us these days. He should come, because if he did, we would finally get some relief and assistance.”
Nyuot is 24 years old and is from the town of Bentiu, which is located in the vicinity of South Sudan’s largest oil fields.
As are Rumbek Panrieng, Paloich and many other oil-side communities, in which victims have been also appealing to the South Sudanese government and the world to help them deal with a range of horrific ailments, including neurodegeneration, skin rashes, chronic swelling of limbs and abdomens, gastrointestinal malfunctions and many more.
The photographs taken of the victims – and especially of their deformed infants – have shocked and moved the world.
One of the “smoking guns” establishing the connection between the poisons-laden “produced water” spilled by such profits-blinded oil companies as Malaysia’s Petronas, China National Petroleum and India’s ONGC Videsh into local aquifers and on surrounding land and the presence of such health-destroying substances as lead and barium was delivered by the study released in December 2016 by a team of scientists by Berlin’s Professor Fritz Pragst, one of the world’s leading forensic toxicologists.
It found that “the concentrations of lead in hairs of residents in South Sudan were, in some cases “among the highest that the world,” reports Professor Pragst, who adds: “while further tests – of resident blood- would be required to ascertain actual damaging of health – the direct and immediate endangerment of lead poisoning for human beings and animals is extremely well and unequivocally documented.”
The question arises: how many South Sudanese have already been affected by this “black tide” of oil contamination, which includes oil spilling from malfunctioning and derelict facilities and pipelines, and abandoned stockpiles of noxious chemicals.
“600,000” was the number delivered in a report issued in April 2018 by Sign of Hope, the Germany-based NGO that has been spearheading since 2007 a campaign for the investigation and remediation of this black tide.
This number is set to inevitably rise, points out Dr. Bior K. Bior of the Juba-based Nile Institute for Environmental Health.
“Human beings and animals continue to drink from the contaminated water sources, which are still also being used to irrigate their farmland. They too are thus bearing a high risk of contamination,” says Bior.
His words are echoed by Dr. James Okuk, the Juba-based analyst.
“Pollution is displacing people. It is creating havoc. It is making our people really suffer. All this means that oil contamination constitutes a violation of human rights. Both the South Sudanese government and the oil companies share the responsibility for this matter,” Okuk states.
“The communities affected by the pollution desperately need support, but our government is responding to their pleas with silence,” he says, adding: “It is time for the government to declare a humanitarian crisis, and act accordingly.”
Nyuot concludes his testimony with the following heartfelt words: “We appeal to the international community and aid agencies to assist us in addressing this humanitarian crisis and in preventing its getting. This crisis is certainly beyond our means to address alone,” he winds up.