The ef­fects of oil spills on so­ci­ety

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS - By Kholoud Al-Ghu­naim

Mod­ern ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy and de­mand for fuel have in­creased the need for oil across the world. From us­ing ded­i­cated pipe­lines to large tankers, there are nu­mer­ous de­liv­ery meth­ods that lo­gis­tics com­pa­nies use to de­liver oil all over the globe. When any amount of oil is re­leased into the water or land, the dis­as­trous event is known as an oil spill. This can hap­pen when a huge oil tanker sinks into the sea or when oil trucks have ac­ci­dents and spill the oil on land. The pur­pose of this ar­ti­cle is to an­a­lyze the en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic and so­cial ef­fects of oil spills.

Oil spills have a very neg­a­tive ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment. Spilled oil is a big threat to fresh­wa­ter and salt­wa­ter marine en­vi­ron­ments. Oil spills cause phys­i­cal dam­ages that di­rectly im­pact wildlife and their habi­tats. At a mi­cro­scopic level, tox­ins re­leased from the oil di­min­ish the num­ber of plank­ton in an area. Be­cause of the ex­tra layer of oil on the sur­face of the water, birds are forced to dive through the oil to catch fish. As a re­sult of this, oil residue builds on their feath­ers and when the birds try to clean them­selves, they in­gest tox­ins. More­over, birds get cov­ered with oil die from drown­ing, loss of body heat and star­va­tion.

Parts of the oil layer some­times also sink to­wards the bot­tom of the body of water. This dam­ages sea life that lives un­der­neath. In fish, tur­tles and shell­fish, oil spills can cause blind­ness, dam­age to or­gans and be­hav­ioral changes. With the waves of the sea, oil can also reach beaches, shore­line, marshes and wet­lands which neg­a­tively af­fect plant life and wildlife in these ar­eas. As such, it is ev­i­dent that the oil spills from any source have dev­as­tat­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences.

From an eco­nomic per­spec­tive, oil spills are very costly to clean up. A ma­jor fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter like a spill would ruin var­i­ous mi­nor cor­po­ra­tions, and this amount cer­tainly sets its in­vestors back for many years. Lo­cal gov­ern­ment, in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses that rely on the wa­ter­ways are also fi­nan­cially im­pacted by oil spills. Oil spills are not only costly to clean, but they also take a lot of time and re­sources. The spill also re­quires the ef­forts of thou­sands of work­ers, hun­dreds of boats and planes, and sig­nif­i­cant amounts of man hours.

Un­reach­able water chan­nels are a re­lated prob­lem due to the amount of water cov­ered by oil and the length of time it takes to clean spills. When boats and air­crews are clean­ing, in­di­vid­ual and com­mer­cial boats can­not nav­i­gate the wa­ter­ways. In sev­eral cases, they still have a way through ocean chan­nels or passes, but the spill may take the boaters thou­sands of miles off path. These de­tours can de­lay ship­ments of cargo, which af­fects the econ­omy in a neg­a­tive way.

On a so­cial level, oil spills can harm recre­ational ar­eas as well as res­i­den­tial ar­eas. Parks and recre­ational ar­eas that are cov­ered with oil are not ap­peal­ing to tourists and con­trib­ute to the de­cline of tourism in ar­eas with oil spills. Nearby res­i­dents of ar­eas that have been af­fected by oil spills may choose to move to other towns or other ar­eas of the country be­cause of con­cerns re­lated to safety and qual­ity of life. Fall­ing prop­erty val­ues, job loss and a de­cline in tourism due to an oil spill will also force lo­cals to seek res­i­dence in other ar­eas.

Oil spills can lead to the de­struc­tion of cul­tural ar­eas and plants found in sa­cred ar­eas, shrines and forests that are sym­bols of spir­i­tu­al­ity. Spills can also cause con­flicts be­tween com­mu­ni­ties, in­di­vid­u­als and oil com­pa­nies. The act of oil com­pa­nies pay­ing in­di­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties for their losses is al­ways con­tro­ver­sial be­cause com­pa­nies want to pay out as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. De­struc­tion, forced dis­place­ment and mi­gra­tion forces in­di­vid­u­als to live in poverty. Due to oil spills, en­tire com­mu­ni­ties must sur­vive with scarcity of food and tem­po­rary shel­ters. Such rough so­cial sit­u­a­tions can also re­sult in mil­i­tancy and ter­ror­ism in ex­treme sit­u­a­tions.

Thus, it is clear that oil spills have neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic and so­cial con­se­quences. Com­pa­nies must re­al­ize that fac­tors such as such as fa­tigue, in­ad­e­quate crew­ing re­quire­ments, in­ad­e­quate com­pany train­ing, op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures and poli­cies re­sult in oil spills. In or­der to re­duce the like­li­ness of oil spills, com­pa­nies must work to elim­i­nate these fac­tors. Com­pa­nies must em­pha­size these hu­man fac­tors as the key to oil spill pre­ven­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.