Rivers pol­luted by oil

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH -

DAN­GER­OUS heavy me­tals used in oil pro­duc­tion in war- torn south Su­dan have leaked into drink­ing wa­ter sources used by 180,000 peo­ple, threat­en­ing them with health risks.

Tox­i­co­log­i­cal tests car­ried out on hair sam­ples from 96 vol­un­teers liv­ing around the Thar Jath oil pro­cess­ing plant in the north­ern Unity re­gion re­vealed they were “highly in­tox­i­cated with pol­lu­tants such as lead and bar­ium,” said Klaus Stieglitz, from the Ger­man- based Sign of Hope or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“There is a di­rect link be­tween the con­tam­i­na­tion of the peo­ple and the ac­tiv­i­ties of the pe­tro­leum in­dus­try work­ing in this area,” he said, adding that the re­search built on six years of hy­dro­log­i­cal tests by the group in the re­gion.

“The to­tal toxic stress, as found in the hair sam­ples of the hu­man pop­u­la­tion of the area is life- threat­en­ing,” said Klaus- Di­et­rich Runow, from Ger­many’s In­sti­tute for Func­tional Medicine and En­vi­ron­men­tal Health, one of two sep­a­rate in­de­pen­dent tox­i­col­o­gists who as­sessed the sam­ples. Pre­vi­ous tests have shown “di­rect links” be­tween oil drilling and drink­ing wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion.

The ar­eas, which have seen some of the heav­i­est fight­ing in more than two years of civil war, chang­ing hands sev­eral times, lie in the wa­ter­shed of the White Nile river and the swamp­lands of the Sudd, one of the world’s largest wetlands. The UN has warned that the ar­eas are at dire risk of famine.

South Su­dan is es­ti­mated to pro­duce around 150,000 bar­rels a day – down from 350,000 at in­de­pen­dence in 2011 – af­ter many oil fields ceased op­er­at­ing af­ter war broke out in De­cem­ber 2013 be­tween Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.

Oil wells and fa­cil­i­ties have been badly dam­aged in the fight­ing. The Thar Jath oil treat­ment fa­cil­ity, which han­dled oil from sur­round­ing wells op­er­ated by the con­sor­tium SPOC ( Sudd Pe­tro­leum Op­er­at­ing Com­pany), led by the Malaysian gi­ant Petronas, was aban­doned days af­ter war broke out.

Tens of thou­sands have died in the war, more than 2.3 mil­lion peo­ple have been driven from their homes and 3.9 mil­lion South Su­danese face se­vere food short­ages.

The UN has warned that the coun­try’s hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis is wors­en­ing, with the war­ring sides “drag­ging their feet” in im­ple­ment­ing an Au­gust peace deal.

South Su­dan is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing a new oil pipe­lines deal with north Su­dan, af­ter slumps in global prices made Juba ef­fec­tively pay to ex­port crude.

The coun­tries, which split in July 2011 af­ter decades of war, agreed then to a fixed fee for the use of ex­port pipe­lines. But with global prices so low, the fee was more than it earned for the oil it­self, mean­ing South Su­dan lost money on ev­ery bar­rel it sold. – AFP

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