ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS ACTION,
RECORDS COMPLAINTS BY IJAW VICTIMS
OF OIL EXPLORATION BY CHEVRON
OPUAMA, TSKEKELEWU IN WARRI NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT
COUNCIL, DELTA STATE.
BY PATRICK NAAGBANTON
AUGUST 18, 2002.
- "Chevron is wicked"
- "They haunt us with Soldiers, Navy"
- "Erosion and flooding have taken over our communities"
"Chevron came to our communities with soldiers and Navy and dredged a big canal across our creeks to their flow station, and to the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, we have not known peace, salt water now mix with fresh water. Clean water is difficult to get. Chevron has refused to compensate us in spite of the damage they did to us."
- Hon. Dele Tombai (from Tsekelewu)
"Chevron is wicked". We were not consulted when they dredged
a canal into the Opuekeba Creek, our only source of drinking water. The
creek and its
branches used to be pure natural freshwater. We used to drink from them. But since the construction of the artificial canal, salt water has been introduced into our freshwater. Salt water has taken over our entire rivers and creeks. We don't have anywhere to drink water from. We experience erosion and flooding daily. When we go to Chevron's flow station to fetch water, they haunt us with their soldiers and Navy. We are tired of drinking sachet water, which we call "pure water" or bottled water. The sad thing is that, it is not all of us that can afford these kinds of water."
- Mr. Martin Aduan (42 years old, father of 6 children and native of Opuoma community).
"During sunny days especially when the sun is high, you
will see all sorts of strange chemicals and crude oil floating on the water
surface table. When you go into water to do the fishing business, the whole
of your body and especially your private parts will be itching you. We
are tired of this kind of situation. Even our burial grounds are
always overflowing with water since Chevron dredged our river." We want
peace. Mrs. Margaret Amiebi 42 years old, mother of 7 children.
A fisherwoman from Tsekelewu community. Translated from Pidgin English.
THE OPUOMA AND TSEKELEWU COMMUNITIES
The Opuoma and Tsekelekwu are neighbouring communities of the Egbema Clan of Ijaw ethnic group in the Niger Delta. Both communities are administratively located in the Warri North Local Government Council of Delta State. The peoples are predominantly fisher folks because of the presence of an intricate network of creeks and rivers. It takes about 3 hours of uninterrupted engine boat drive to get to the area from Warri.
CHEVRON IN THE COMMUNITIES
Chevron, the America's multinational giant started oil and gas business in the communities since the late 60s when it discovered the resources in commercial quantities.
Opuoma and Tsekelewu jointly host Chevron and its facilities such as the NNPC/Chevron - Opuekeba utility platform, Opuekeba Treater Platform, gas flaring point, and others.
Life in the communities before the advent of Chevron has been rural and natural. The encounter with the oil/gas mogul was a turning point. This was the picture painted by Mrs. Margaret Amiebi, who spoke to ERA Field Monitors in the community.
CHEVRON: DREDGING A PEOPLE'S HOPE
In 1975, to provide access route to the Opuekeba oil/gas facility in the Opuekeba Creek, Chevron, the major operator of oil and gas in the area dredged an artificial canal from the facilities to the Atlantic Ocean. The Opuekeba Creek and its sources was freshwater system which the rural Opuoma and Tsekelewu peoples used as their only source of drinking water and fishing, but the canalisation introduced water into the Opuekeba Creek from the Atlantic Ocean.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE CANALISATION OF OPUEKEBA CREEK
The canalisation altered the watercourse around Opuekeba Creek and its environs. The mangrove forest that sustained the fisheries and supports the coastal ecosystem and provided the Opuoma-Tsekelewu environment with the serenic and aesthetic setting is no more. There is loss of aquatic life as well as depletion of fish stock in the area. Also, during the canalisation, sections of the tropical rainforests (equatorial rainforests) were destroyed. The unnatural conditions has also reduced the water quality and chemistry, and has also contaminated the open water bodies with impurities such as oil and chemical spills from facilities of Chevron. ERA team observed that pollution of all kinds has become widespread and a serious environmental problem in the coastal zone.
ERA observed that mangrove and tropical rainforests due to the over-flooding of the area with salt water from the canal. The vegetation is showing obvious physical damage, defoliation and death. Experts told ERA during field research that "the regeneration of the pro-root by natural process is known to take up to 10-15 years," He argued that because of the unnaturalness of the activity, it would take more than the projected years to repair the damaged environment. That is, if the environment ever recovers.
The Opuoma and Tsekelewu communities are highly underdeveloped.
There are no basic social amenities such as, electricity, good road, adequate
- When prospecting for oil, Chevron should always consider
the negative impact the people and environment. Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) should be carried out to identify project impact
and mitigation measures. - Chevron should stop the use of Soldiers and
Navy to threaten community people. Dialogue now and not guns.
- Chevron should accept responsibilities for destroyed livelihoods and compensate for the damage done to the people of Opuama and Tskekelewu.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
(a) Write letters to Chevron urging them to show good neighbourliness and engage in dialogue with the local people. They have the right to be heard.
(b) Send a letter to Delta State Government to pressure Chevron to adhere to environmental standards.
(c) Send copies of your letter to editors of your newspapers,
concerned local groups and international environmental rights outfits.
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