Oil and Water

While safe larviciding measures exit today, an old mosquito larvae control measure often suggested by your district health inspector was pouring petroleum products like used engine oil on breeding sites.  Over the years the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation of Nigeria appears to have taken this old suggestion too far.

dscn0190-sm.JPG The Guardian reports that now, “A judge in the Netherlands has opened the door to a potential avalanche of legal cases against Shell over environmental degradation said to be caused by its oil operations in the Niger Delta.”

Common Dreams expanded on the story explaining that, “The Nigerian farmers say they lost their income after crude oil from a Shell pipeline poured over their fields. Fishermen also lost money when the leak contaminated their fishponds.”

Shell is also famous in Nigeria for Shelltox, a aerosol insecticide.  Apparently Shell and other oil producers have also taken chemical release too far. “Shell has also been under heavy fire from environmentalists over allegations of unnecessary flaring of gas from oil wells, something that is regarded as a prime source of global warming.”

Pollution results not only in the slow destruction of livelihoods, but when people challenge the polluters, they too are destroyed. According to the Guardian, “Shell, one of the world’s biggest oil firms, is accused of complicity with the then Nigerian government in the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a well-known environmental activist and author, and several other campaigners against the oil industry.”

Shell on its part blames the spills on sabotage. For example in 2005 the BBC reported that, “Oil giant Shell has been forced to delay shipments of Nigerian crude after an apparent dynamite attack on one of its main pipelines in the country.” While environmental campaigners acknowledge the damage, we should note that the oil spillage and gas flaring have been going on long before the populace became disgruntled enough to take action against the pipelines.

The oil situation in the Niger Delta may not cause malaria directly, and the oil spills certainly aren’t controlling it. The loss of livelihood and the violence in the region leads to displacement, which in itself makes people more vulnerable to malaria. Elimination of malaria cannot succeed in an unstable social and political environment.

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