South Sudan minister summoned over oil pollution

Monday July 16 2018

Workers reconstruct an oil pipeline in Abyei

Workers reconstruct an oil pipeline in Abyei area of South Sudan: South Sudan is estimated to produce around 150,000 barrels a day. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOSEPH ODUHA
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A South Sudan parliamentary committee has summoned Oil minister Ezekiel Gatkuoth Lol for failure to report on the pollution in the Upper Nile states.

Mr James Lual, who heads the National Assembly Petroleum Committee, said Mr Lol had failed to produce a report on the damage inflicted by the oil pollution that has displaced about 500,000 people.

“It was in March when we first told the Oil minister to send a third party to the oil polluted areas and give us the findings on the damage inflicted within one or two months for action. But until now, we have not heard anything from the minister,” Mr Lual said on phone from Khartoum.

The residents

“So, we will have to summon him to explain what happened,” he said.

He said that parliament in Juba had heard the outcry from the residents of the producing areas, and their demand for government action to protect them from the irresponsible oil companies.

President Salva Kiir also confirmed, in a foreword note, to the Unep office in Juba in May, that lack of standard environment regulations was responsible for the pollution crisis in the north of the country.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“The lack of environmental standards and guidelines to safeguard the exploration and exploitation in the extractive industry has led to pollution in the oil fields and in the surrounding areas,” the letter reads.

President Kiir said the environmental crisis must be checked and action considered immediately.

“This trend needs to be checked through the formulation of environmental policies, standards and guidelines and the enforcement of these instruments,” he said.

German-based Sign of Hope organisation has previously reported on the pollution around the Thar Jath oil processing plant

Drinking water

"There is a direct link between the contamination of the people and the activities of the petroleum industry working in this area," said Mr Klaus Stieglitz, from the Sign of Hope.

"The total toxic stress — as found in the hair samples — of the human population of the area is life-threatening," said Mr 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 also pointed to a link between oil drilling and drinking water contamination.