Environmental contamination in ogoniland restoring resilience
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Environmental Contamination in Ogoniland: Restoring Resilience. Ibrahim Thiaw Director, Division for Environmental Policy Implementaiton. Ogoniland, Niger Delta, Nigeria. Study Area. Ogoniland consists of 4 Local Government Areas in Rivers State

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Environmental Contamination in Ogoniland: Restoring Resilience

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Environmental Contamination in Ogoniland:Restoring Resilience

Ibrahim Thiaw


Division for Environmental

Policy Implementaiton

Ogoniland, Niger Delta, Nigeria

Study Area

  • Ogoniland consists of 4 Local Government Areas in Rivers State

  • Was a producing oil field between 1960-1993

  • Pipelines carrying oil still pass through Ogoniland

  • A wetland exists surrounding the 4 LGAs

  • Pollution, through air and water, migrate from Ogoniland outwards and vice versa

Oil infrastructure established since 1960s

Still full of operational and dormant oil field facilities


Timeframe of Analyses

  • Oil industry operations ongoing since 1960s

  • Currently air, water, soil and wetlands are heavily polluted

  • It will take decades to restore the system, if appropriate actions are taken

Oil industry is closely inter-connected with day-to-day life

67 contaminated locations next to oil industry installations were investigated

41 of these sites have pollution levels exceeding Nigerian Intervention Values

In 38 of these sites, pollution has migrated 1 meter below ground

Pollution has gone down to or more than 5 meters below ground in 13 locations

In no-spill sites the target value has been achieved

366,000 cubic meter of soil exceeding intervention value

2.5 million cubic meters of soil exceeding target value

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland:Key Observations

There are no confining layers of clay anywhere in Ogoniland

So surface pollution can reach ground water which is used for drinking in Ogoniland

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland:Key Observations

Very high concentration of Benzene, a known carcinogen, detected around NNPC product spill site

5 community wells measured benzene, some with 100x above the WHO guideline limits

The community was still consuming this contaminated water

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland:Key Observations

Right-of-way on land

Community exposed to hydrocarbon from air, drinking water, bathing, swimming and walking

Presence of benzene in air at concentrations higher than WHO indoor air standards

Hydrocarbon in drinking water in 28 community drinking water samples

Hydrocarbons were observed in 6 rain water samples

These are “on sampling basis only”

Indicative of major public health concern

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland:Key Observations

Main Issue of Concern

  • Community Livelihoods

    • Traditional fishing area is fully polluted

    • People have to move far away for fishing

    • Women not able to engage in traditional fishing anymore

    • Quality of fish caught in the area tainted

Worst Pollution Observed

Natural Resource-Stakeholder Linkage

Ongoing System Disturbance

  • Ongoing oil spills into the wetland from pipeline leaks, spill clean ups and artisanal refining

  • Inadequate management and supervision to ensure that the pollution is contained

Artisanal refining of crude is causing serious environmental damage in Ogoniland

Cause land, air and water contamination;

vegetation loss by fire and pollution;

Water bodies not fit for fishing or swimming

None prior to 2009

Suddenly 100s of refineries (post-2009)

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland:Key Observations

Institutional Challenges

  • There are issues of institutional mandates, effective laws, human capacity and logistical support, which all impact on local/national institutions’ capacity to address the problems

  • National institutions tasked with managing oil industry and environmental protection were unable to exercise their oversight effectively


  • Resilience of environmental systems around Ogoniland has been surpassed.

  • The communities own resilience is adversely affected due to the degradation of their production base.

Restoring Environment and Livelihoods

  • Restoration of the environmental support base

    • Environmental clean up

    • Preventing ongoing oil spills

    • Improving governance (Govt and Oil industry)

  • Restoration of community livelihoods

    • Engaging community in restoration actions

    • Recovering traditional livelihoods

Creating Resilience

  • This will require targeted, sustained and substantial resource input into Ogoniland.

  • UNEP proposed an initial budget of USD 1 billion and a dedicated Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to address this.

  • Local and international civil society need to continue to be vigilant to ensure that environmental restoration actually happens.

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