Worldwide: The oil spills that don't make the news

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.

The tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has the world's attention on the devastation that badly managed oil extraction can bring.  However, in some places around the world, people live with toxic spills such as these  and through videos people try to bring the world's attention to their plight.


The people in Nigeria have had to deal with oil pollution in the Niger Delta for decades already, but in addition, they've also dealt with human rights abuses that claimed the lives of anti-oil activists.  The people sued Shell (who handles the oil extraction in the region) and earlier this month Shell settled for $15.5 Million the day before the trial. This money will be used to compensate human rights activists and to establish a trust fund.  However, lawsuits for environmental damage have yet to be fruitful since according to the organization, what “cleanup” means is turning over the soil so that the oil is no longer visible, but it is still there, contaminating the ground and making people sick, and nothing has been done regarding the gas flares that constantly burn.

Here is the video testimony from people whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the oil spills in the Niger Delta:


The beaches of Hurghada in the Red Sea were awash with oil a few days ago, and tourists and hotel owners raised complaints. These complaints generated actions and teams immediately went forth to discover the cause of the spill, plug it and clean up the beaches as the Hurghada environmental protection association HEPCA reported.


A month ago we reported on the oil spill in Singapore, caused by the collision of two tankers resulting in barrels of crude oil contaminating the water. Following is a citizen video showing the oil encrusted coastline:


The Marañon river in the Amazon Jungle is the only source of water for more than 28 communities that line its shores, and after the Pluspetrol oil spill earlier this month all of these communities are left with no clean water for all their needs and they can't fish either, since it is contaminated with more than 300 barrels of crude oil. In Globalizado blog, Juan Arellano wrote an extensive and comprehensive post regarding the multi-faceted impact that a spill like this can have on the wildlife of the amazon and the indigenous communities in their relationship with waterways and rivers. Here is a citizen video showing the oil floating over the water.

This isn't new in Peru. In Loreto, the same company PlusPetrol has a history of spills and their efforts in cleanup aren't that clean. As one of the workers says in the following video, that hey just have them turn over the soil, and when the authorities come along they tell them that “the spill has been contained”, but they can't mention that the oil is still there right under the surface where it can still contaminate water, plants and animals. One community member speaks of how his friends have died from crude oil ingestion and how they used to have elders live up to 90 or 100 years of age, but nowadays people are dying younger due to the ingestion of oil.


In spite of photos and videos showing black tarlike oil on the shores of the Lake of Maracaibo, the Minister of Environment denies any problem or oil spill and calls the mess and discharge, polluting the shores since 2009, “normal” as Código Venezuela reports.


Besides the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, there's also the oil spill in Utah where a Chevron pipeline leaked and dumped 33,000 gallons of oil into the waterways.  While cleanup crews are getting to work and removing the visible oil on ponds, lakes and creeks, the community is concerned about possible effects of the contamination. Next is a short video showing a creek with oil covered sides.

Other Locations, Other disasters:

It seems that only now the media is getting interested in oil spills, and back in 2005 it took a Taiwanese blogger Munch to engage his readers to call media offices so that the oil spill near the island of Lanyu in Taiwan was noticed. This next picture shows the oil covered shores that were being cleaned.

Cleaning up Oil Spill in Taiwan by Munch

But oil is not the only threat to marine environments. Back in 2009, a ship carrying phosphate sunk off the coast of Madagascar and the contamination affected wildlife including migrating whales and fishermen who got sick from the contaminated water on the shores.

It seems that no matter how many years are spent in the oil extraction business, that security measures to ensure that the oil doesn't pollute the environment around the extraction places or pipes haven't grown at the same rate than the need to use and consume oil. Maybe we need to rethink our use of petroleum and demand accountability of the companies that exploit it.

This post is part of our special coverage Forest Focus: Amazon.


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