In 1993, the oil wells in Ogoniland, Nigeria were shut down due to political violence. When local groups attacked pipelines and wellheads, it lead to Shell's pullout and government executions of Ogoni leaders. After running for more than 50 years, however, they left their toll on the environment.
In 2006, Nigeria asked the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to conduct its assessment as part of a political reconciliation effort. But many Ogoni doubted that the study would be impartial, in part because Shell is one of the principal parties funding the study.
In 2010, scientists working with the UNEP were finally able to assess the contamination in Ogoniland, and are now describing it as one of the world’s worst polluted oil fields.
Their analysis was published in early August 2011 and it revealed some startling findings. The study states that the oil pollution has “penetrated further and deeper than many have supposed.” After examining more than 200 sites, the scientists found unsafe levels of hydrocarbons, and that the levels of benzene were 900 times greater than deemed safe by the World Health Organization. In other areas, the oil floated 8 centimeters on top of groundwater and fell 5 meters deep.
The study concluded that eight steps needed to be implemented immediately for the safety of the 800,000 people who inhabit Ogoniland. These recommended steps included marking unsafe wells, monitoring the health of local residents, and providing alternative supplies.
The current prediction is that it will take at least $1 billion dollars and 30 years to restore the forest and soil that are currently soaking in oil. Although the study states that the cleanup responsibility should fall on the oil companies, there has been no agreement with the companies regarding what they will contribute, or when.
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