By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”The people of Gbarantoru community, a predominantly farming and fishing settlement in Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State, have raised an alarm over the ignition of a new gas flare furnace in their community by Shell Petroleum Development Company.
Though the Federal Government has been under intense pressure to put an end to gas flaring due to its adverse effects on human health and the environment, the people of Gbarantoru yesterday accused SPDC of igniting a new gas flare site, about one hundred and twenty metres from their community.
Lamenting the one week-old gas flare, a native of the community, Mr. Bubaraye Dakolo, said they were taken aback by the action of the company, especially at a time when efforts were on to put an end to gas flaring world-wide due to its negative effects on the environment.
While condemning the recent act by Shell, Mr. Dakolo observed that â€œby the emission and flaring of this noxious substance into our environment, Shell has decided to deny us of an environment safe enough for our development. Without any notice the community was woken up rudely one night by this deafening sound you can hear now.â€
Dakolo and other community folks who led a delegation of Environmental Rights Action (ERA) to the flare site added: â€œWe are not only very apprehensive, we are also aware of the noxiousness of gas flare. That is why we are very uncomfortable with the situation. As you can observe, the flare point is just about a hundred and twenty meters from our living homes.
â€œThis thing (flare) was not here last week. And, it shouldnâ€™t be here either, for we are not talking about any benefits here; you donâ€™t need to die to get benefits. Shell should not gas us to death. If we go through the main entrance now you will notice men of the Joint Task Force there and, they will deny us access to the site.”
â€œWe want Shell to relocate this gas flare from our environment. Luckily I was part of the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU) between Shell and the cluster communities. And while discussing that document, there was no mention in any part that gas would be flared here in our community.
â€œWhat we know is that a gas gathering plant would be sited around here and that the product would be channeled to Bonny in Rivers State.
So, why should Shell now gas us through the back? Like you can observed we cannot hear each other now unless we raise our voices higher than normal due to the roaring, deafening sound from the gas flare furnace. It then means both speakers and listeners in the community would now be subjected to a new culture of shouting and straining of ears just to communicate with each other. And, you know what this means health wise, even psychologically speaking.
â€œAgain, apart from the huge economic waste in flaring gas, the noxiousness of it is grave too health wise. If you also take a look at our roofs now you will notice that there is a heavy settlement of soot on them. From this too, you can see that we can no longer drink from our roofs.
â€œMy mother is about 80 years old now and she is in the village. If this gas flare should continue, may be you will be invited soon to her funeral. So, what the people of this community are saying is that, Shell should not do this thing here; the company should relocate the gas flare, away from our environment.â€
Also reacting to new gas flare site, ERA Field Officer in Bayelsa State, Mr. Alagoa Morris called on the company to stop the flaring, saying the development should be condemned by all, especially at a time when concerted effort is on to make gas flaring a history.