By Samuel OYADONGHA
Yenagoa- SPEAKER of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Konbowei Benson, has blamed the fast degrading environment in the Niger Delta region, on unwholesome oil and gas exploration activities of multi-national oil companies.
He said the operations of the companies have negative implications for the marine life and coastal vegetation.
Benson made the observation when he accompanied the State Governor, Seriake Dickson, in company of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to Koluama communities to assess the level of damage, resulting from the January 16, gas rig explosion at Chevron’s Funiwa field.
He noted with sadness that the Niger Delta region has suffered too many pains, as a result of oil exploration and exploitation activities.
While lamenting the high rate of gas flaring in the region, he expressed fears that the recent gas explosion at Koluama and neighbouring communities in Southern Ijaw local government area of the state, could affect livelihood and expose the affected communities to increase risk of premature deaths, child respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer.
He regretted that the people of the region have also had to contend with oil spillage, noting that leaking pipelines, running through villages, farms, creeks and rivers in the Niger Delta have become a major source of pollution, causing sicknesses and economic ruin in its wake.
The Speaker who said the affected communities have no choice than to consume contaminated fishes, expressed fears of possible health problems, which may further compound the economic damages.
He argued that the vast majority of Nigeria’s oil and gas was produced in the Niger Delta, generating billions of dollars for the Nigerian economy, reiterating that the environmental problems in the region have not been attended to by the oil companies and the relevant authorities.
He noted that the environmental degradation caused by the depletion of natural resources, such as air, water, and soil leading to the destruction of the eco-system and the extinction of wildlife, has become a global concern.
He re-iterated that oil facilities and operations were being located around key ecological areas, including important fishing grounds, mangroves and tropical rainforest in Bayelsa state.