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GAS FLARING: We can’t sleep, our homes cracking, Bayelsa villagers cry out

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•Flaring increased at night, reduced at dawn —Inhabitants
•Not only Polaku, other N’Delta communities affected —ERA/FoEN
•We operate within safe limits —SPDC

By Samuel Oyadongha

POLAKU – RESIDENTS of Polaku community, a confluence settlement between Taylor Creek and River Nun in Gbarain clan, Yenagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, have expressed alarm that they could no longer sleep happily at night, while their homes were coming apart due to continuous gas flaring at the nearby Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC Integrated Gbarian/Ubie Gas gathering facility.

•Another cracked wall in the community

My people cannot sleep anymore —Tari, acting monarch

Acting Paramount ruler of Polaku, Chief Club Tari, told NDV:  “The gas flare, which started about eight years ago, is killing us silently.  Since they started this gas flaring; we no longer live and sleep comfortably in this community. Houses are cracking and even the roofs have been damaged.

“We can no longer drink rain water because when it rains, the water would be covered by soot. So, no one is drinking rain water anymore in this our environment. When it rains and you go to the river, the top layer is always black. It is affecting our fishing too.

“Even our crops, plantain cannot do well again. The heat is causing so much health issues.  We attribute most of the diseases experienced in this community to the gas flaring and we are not happy about it. Let them pay us hazard allowance. If not, let them stop the gas flaring because we are not comfortable with it,” he said.

We’re suffering bizarre ailments —Idubamo, dep village head

Deputy Head of the community, Jephthah Idubamo, asserted: “I have thought about this matter for a long time even when I have not been made a community leader. It bothers me because community folks are suffering. There are strange health issues our children are experiencing which our forebears never experienced. They should stop flaring gas.”

Flaring increased at night, reduced at dawn —Ayoro, indigene

An indigene, Kwaku Ayoro, stated: “My concern about this gas flaring which is a stone throw from our community is that it has been causing a lot of hazard to our lives. During the day time, the volume of the raging gas flare is lower, but in the night, from 12.00 mid-night, it is high. Then when it gets to about 5:00 am, the volume will reduce again. You will feel the vibration shaking our buildings.

“Shell has to note our observations; our buildings are cracking, properties are getting damaged, including musical sets at home and ceiling fans.  You can be shown round and you will see some of the walls of buildings that have cracked in the community. So we are calling on Shell and the Federal Government to come to our aid so as to avert the threat posed by this gas flaring,” he said.

Buildings vibrating —Kpokoitei, retired headmaster

A retired headmaster, Bob Kpokoitei, added:  “This gas flaring has damaged so much that we cannot bear it. We cannot sleep at night in our homes. We cannot sleep at night at all (owing to the vibration of the buildings). Even our roofs are damaged. So, what I want Shell to do is to compensate the people for the hazards we are subjected to.”

Gas flaring causing us trouble —Werinipre, resident

An inhabitant, Agge Werinipre also stated: “Really, this gas flaring is causing us pain. Our children are affected health-wise and our crops are not doing well anymore. Even the rain water, we cannot drink anymore. So we are begging the world and the Federal Government to come to our aid. Our houses are cracking because of the vibration. We are suffering, we are begging those in authority; we are dying here.”

We’re sending SOS to FG, Shell —Puragha, resident

Another resident, Ebikoboere Puragha disclosed: ‘’Part of the pains our community is experiencing is caused by the gas flaring from Shell. Our children fall sick very often, buildings are cracking and farm yields are poor. We are suffering and we need the intervention of the Federal Government; to help Polaku.”

“We are peace-loving people in Gbarain, suffering the impacts from the gas flaring without any benefits. They should come and find ways of ameliorating our plight. There is need for our concerns to be looked into. Even the roofs of our buildings are deteriorating faster than they should. And with the cracking of our buildings; we are not comfortable right now.  Please, we want the Federal Government to come and take care of us; we are dying in silence,” he said.

ERA/FoEN corroborate residents’ allegations

Also, ERA/FoEN Head in Bayelsa, Comrade Alagoa Morris in a field report on Polaku community said as far as gas flaring is concerned, the observations and experiences narrated by the natives were not new, as according to him: “These and more have been captured by ERA/FoEN from other communities far away from Polaku; even in other states of the Niger-Delta region.

“The cracking of walls of buildings is not new, especially for communities not far from the gas flare facility. What is relatively new in this matter raised by the community is the alleged antics of Shell increasing the volume of gas flared as from mid-night and lowering same at dawn to avoid public outcry.

“The allegations though subject to further investigation may not be far from the truth as ERA/FoEN field monitors have been observing right from the Opolo-Epie axis of Yenagoa how the skyline gets brighter with pulsating orange colour in the dead of the night. These testimonies by the people of Polaku have just confirmed ERA/FoEN’s observation from far,” the report stated.

It added: “After the day’s hustle and bustle, people return home and are expected to sleep and have a good rest at night. Medical experts advised certain number of hours for sleep, for different age grades. If folks are denied sleep owing to the sort of vibration and related fear or concerns; then this situation might result into other health, social and psychological issues. The rights of victims need to be protected.”

Gas flaring volume reduced by 90% —Odugbesan

Contacted, SPDC’s Media Relations Manager, Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, said: “SPDC JV facilities in Gbarain have fully functional solutions to address routine flaring.”

“SPDC JV has also continued to make progress in close collaboration with its joint venture partners and the Federal Government towards the objective of ending the continuous flaring of associated gas.

“In fact, since 2000, all new SPDC JV facilities have been designed to eliminate continuous flaring of associated gas.

“1. Parallel, a multi-year programme has been successfully implemented to install equipment for capturing associated gas from older facilities.

“As a result, flaring volume from SPDC JV facilities was reduced by 90 per cent between 2002 and 2017 and flaring intensity decreased by 78 per cent over the same period, “ Odugbesan said.

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