By Emem Idio, Yenogoa
Oil and gas producing communities in Bayelsa and Delta states have bemoaned the devastating effects of gas flare and oil exploration in their domains, lamenting that nearly every facet of their lives had been affected.
According to the host communities, oil and gas exploitation has exposed them to unabated pollution giving rise to health challenges, livelihood stress and a general denial of a good life and well-being of the community people.
The affected communities spoke, weekend, during a two-day community dialogue and trainings for environmental monitoring and advocacy facilitated by Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, with over 80 participants from Ekpetiama community of Bayelsa State and Iwherekan community in Delta State.
A participant from Ekpetiama, Peredangikumo Ogiriki, who lamented the state of things in his community, said before oil and gas operations began in his community, they had enjoyed peace and unity, regretting that the once serene environment has disappeared following the exploitation and exploration of oil and gas.
He said: “Today, there is disunity, suspicion and activities such as indiscriminate sand mining and massive gas flaring have led to pollution of our river and the air.”
Another participant, Kaka Taripreye, said: “Our challenges are numerous from degradation of our community to our physical and social needs. As a fisherman, the river pollution has affected me and it is difficult for me to make ends meet. You return home with nothing after a whole day of toiling. Gas flaring in the community has affected everything. Our farm yields are now poor and this is affecting us badly.”
Jane Ogiriki, an undergraduate lamented: “We have suffered very much from the gas flare. I am an undergraduate, sadly all we do is struggle to live here due to environmental degradation. Our health is affected and we have no health facility, it is a terrible living condition.”
During the training, resource persons charged community members to be vigilant to note and report happenings in their environment, adding that Iwherekan and Ekpetiama communities have similar challenges, especially those related to gas flaring where there are rampant incidents of respiratory diseases and increase of cardiac cases.
It will be recalled that in 2005, Iwherekan community sued Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, and the Attorney General of the Federation for engaging in gas flaring in the community which they said was unconstitutional and an affront to their right to life.