Women from the Niger Delta demand Shell to end pollution of air and water
Communities in the Niger Delta have been affected by air and water pollution due to Shell's activities for decades. This year, at Royal Dutch Shell's annual meeting, Kebetkache Women's Resource and Development Centre held Shell accountable for the consequences of their activities. Clean-up of oil spillages and ending gas flaring is becoming even more urgent in the fight against COVID-19, in which clean water is crucial to prevent the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 forces us all to change our way of working and find new and innovative ways to meet, discuss and continue life as usual. Like any other company, Royal Dutch Shell organized their Annual Shareholder Meeting in May 2020 via webcast.
Shell continues operations in Niger Delta during COVID-19 crisis
In the run up to May 13th and May 19th, COVID-19 measurements took over the world, incited states of emergencies, curfews and lockdowns, including in Nigeria's Niger Delta – one of Shell's oldest, most disturbing and troubled areas of oil production in the world. The Nigerian Federal government urged people to work from home. However, it soon became known that oil platforms and gas flaring activities continued business as usual, flying workers in and out with helicopters. Community women in Rivers State noted that "Shell is still working because Shell's vehicles are still moving about as if nothing has happened."
To prevent the spread of the virus, Nigeria's governments also urged people to wash their hands and ensure hygienic measures. Even if oil company- or government provided boreholes of water are in place and work, as a result of decades of oil spillage and gas flaring throughout the Niger Delta, rivers, streams and creeks are polluted by oil, borehole water taste of crude and rain water is acidic and not fit for drinking. The continuous gas flaring increases lung diseases, skin rashes and cancer and women suffers from maternal health issues. The average life expectancy of people growing up in the Niger Delta is 47 years. In this context, where especially women and children are vulnerable, a possible spread of COVID-19 could be disastrous and puts people in even more immediate risk.
Nigerian women ask Shell to take its responsibility to clean up the Delta
Emem Okon, Director of Kebetkache Women's Resource and Development Centre, based in Port Harcourt and dedicated to support women affected by gas flaring and oil spillage in all nine states of Nigeria's Niger Delta since 2004, asked questions during the Shell Shareholder Engagement Webcast on May 13th also on behalf of Gbogbia Feefeelo and Women Initiative on Climate Change. They aim to make Shell and its shareholders aware of the issue of air and water pollution in the Niger Delta, and its effects on women and children's health, especially in the light of COVID-19.
"In this time of COVID-19, Niger Delta community members are at high risk. How are community members able to access clean water to wash hands and live safely? Particularly women experience additional burden as they bear primary responsibility of household water management. Access to water is one of the Sustainable Development Goals. When is Shell planning to commence full remediation of environment impacted by their activities? What measures are you adopting to address water pollution in the Niger Delta and meet the global goal of clean water and sanitation for all (SDG 6)?"
Shell answered that it had limited its clean-up activities in Ogoniland due to COVID-19 measures. However it continues its other operations in other areas of the Delta. The Niger Delta women's organisations therefore ask Shell to set its priorities straight and demand it continues the remediation activities first and foremost to ensure access to clean environment and restoration of livelihood.
Stop the gas flaring
Continued oil production and gas flaring is happening in Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta states. Shell's activities have contributed to the lack of access to clean water in the Niger Delta. Rivers, streams and creeks are polluted by oil; borehole water taste of crude; rain water is acidic and not fit for drinking. The gas flaring increases health problems, such as increased lung diseases, skin rashes and cancer. The average life expectancy of people growing up in the Niger Delta is 47 years, and women suffer effects on their maternal health.
Ms. Okon therefore questioned Shell on the issue of water pollution in the Niger Delta as a result of spillage of oil from Shell extractive ventures into rivers and creeks in communities in the Niger Delta and the refusal of Shell to end gas flaring in Niger Delta communities.
"The Shell gas flare site at Imiringi in Bayelsa state is just beside a Federal Government Girls College in Imiringi. Shell has been flaring toxic gases from this location for many decades. This is inhuman and very insensitive to the impacts on the health of women and girls in the school and the entire Imiringi community. What measures has Shell adopted to mitigate the impacts of the flare on the students and teachers of this school? What investigations has Shell made to investigate the impacts of Shell's actions to rural communities, particularly women? When does Shell plan to end gas flaring in the Niger Delta?"
In its response Shell claimed that "the SPDC joint venture (30% Shell) has significantly reduced continuous flaring from its operations, embarking on Associated Gas Gathering Solutions since Year 2000. The flaring data is disclosed in our sustainability report. In respect to the specific location mentioned [Imiringi], it is important to note that gas flaring has reduced by more than 98% since Year 2011, averaging 13 ton CO2 equivalent per year compared to 790 ton CO2 equivalent per year in the preceding 5 years prior to implementation of the flare reduction strategy." Shell furthermore stated that "the school in question is more than 2km from the nearest Shell facility emission source, and significantly lies outside the range of distances of 200 meters intervals away from the installation along the direction of the prevailing wind as per regulatory guideline (EGASPIN) for air quality monitoring."
Although this data is accurate, this does not mean that the effects of gas flaring do not reach the young girls going to school in Imiringi and that Shell needs to be held accountable for their stock in the quality of air in various states throughout the Delta, including Imiringi.
Shell states it aims to end gas flaring by 2030. That's 10 more years of severe air pollution to our communities. Kebetkache Women's Resource and Development Centre, Gbogbia Feefeelo and Women Initiative on Climate Change have demanded this for years and ask it again: stop gas flaring immediately!
Taking equal responsibility for air and water pollution through the Delta
Shell has responded to some of the questions, but the women from the Niger Delta are not satisfied and will continue their fight for their right to clean water and environmental justice.
Next to ensuring the continuous clean-up of Ogoniland, they demand that Shell takes action to address the issues of water pollution, loss of livelihood and gas flaring in other Niger Delta states like Akwa-Ibom State, Bayelsa State and Delta State, and takes responsibility for the environment and the lives of people in all regions in which they operate equally.
Kebetkache Women's Resource and Development Centre is supported in its struggle by the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA)
For more information
Read more about this subject
In these times of worldwide lockdown all attention is focused on the care sector, on the sorrow of those who are losing their loved ones, on children getting home-schooling and the neighbour who can no longer go the supermarket herself. Politicians and civil servants are hard at work trying to control the COVID-19 crisis and the economic crisis it has caused.
GAGGA rallies the collective power of the women's rights and environmental justice movements to realize a world where women can and do access their rights to water, food security, and a clean, healthy and safe environment.
News / 19 May 2020
On Monday 11 May, at the government's request, the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) published an emergency advisory report on how the Netherlands can make an effective contribution to the worldwide fight against the Corona virus. Together with companies, scientists and environmental, human rights and development organisations, Both ENDS is today presenting a response to this report, in which we make a number of suggestions for investing in countries and people with insufficient resources to tackle the crisis effectively.
News / 23 March 2020
In many places in Latin America, access to clean water is under great pressure from overuse and pollution, often caused by large-scale agriculture or mining. This has significant impact, especially on women. In March, with International Women's Day on March 8 and World Water Day on March 22, they make themselves heard and claim their right to water.
Publication / 8 March 2018
News / 8 March 2018
Women around the globe are at the forefront of addressing the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, designing, implementing, and scaling up their own solutions. Socially defined gender roles often position women and girls as stewards of the physical, economic, and cultural well-being of their communities.
News / 7 August 2018
Communities from Northern Guatemala have filed a complaint this week against the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). They bear the brunt of the construction of two large hydropower dams in the Ixquisis region, that are co-financed by the IDB. This is against the bank's own policies on environment and sustainability, indigenous people, gender, and information disclosure.
External link / 31 May 2018
It was minus 20 degrees Celsius when 2.000 women gathered at the main square of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to voice their distress about the terrible smog in the city caused by three large power plants. Soon after, the women were invited to speak about the problem of air pollution with the minister of environment.
News / 8 March 2019
During the month of March, and as part of International Women's Day (March 8th) and World Water Day (March 22nd), the organizations that constitute GAGGA-Latin America, will lead a joint campaign called "We, women are water".
Event / 14 April 2018, 11:30
On the 14th of April, Both ENDS wil host a workshop called 'Small Grants, Big Impacts' on the annual Africa day in Amsterdam. The workshop aims to demonstrate that so called 'small grants funds' effectively deliver (devopment and climate) money where it matters, to people that need it the most. Large development banks, funds, donors and governments could use small grants funds as alternative financing mechanisms to make sure their money benefits people and their environment now and it the far future.
News / 28 September 2018
We congratulate Joan Carling, member of the permanent commission on indigenous peoples of the UN, for having received the Lifetime Achievement Award as 'Champion of the Earth' by the UN Environment! This is the UN's highest environmental honor, given to six of the world's most outstanding environmental change makers once a year.
News / 5 March 2020
In Indonesia, with its many islands and long coastline, for many communities fishing is an important livelihood strategy for many, both men and women. However, officially the women are often not counted as fisherfolk. And this is not a minor detail. It makes that their interests are being neglected. Both ENDS' partner Solidaritas Perempuan works with these women to amplify their voices.
Blog / 22 March 2018
"How many layers of clothing are you wearing? One? No, that's not enough. You should wear your ski pants over your jeans, and change your shoes for snowboots." And there you are, on day 1 of your trip to Mongolia. I had already heard that Mongolia is very cold at the end of November, and with -22 degrees that seemed to be all true.
News / 5 November 2019
After a complaint filed by women's groups from Ixquisis, Guatemala, the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) has started an investigation on several policy violations, amongst which the Gender Equality policy. This is a unique chance to create a precedent, because complaints on the IDB's gender policy are very rare. The women from Ixquisis are fighting for their rights with support of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA).
News / 15 October 2018
Last September, approximately 30 women and men from community based organizations of Honduras and El Salvador learned the tool of analog forestry which uses natural forests as guides to create ecologically stable and socio-economically productive landscapes.
Blog / 21 January 2020By Michael Rice
Photo Blog - Like many communities in Indonesia, life in Semanga Village, West Kalimantan, revolves around a river. The 90 or so houses follow the curving bank of the Sambas River, each with a path down to a small pontoon where fishing traps and baskets are stacked and boats are tied.
Publication / 10 December 2018
Video / 12 September 2018
Latin American partner organizations of GAGGA launched the campaign "We, women, are water" in March 2018. This video was launched as part of this campaign, and emphasizes the role of women water defenders.
Video / 12 September 2018
The Latin American partner organizations of GAGGA launched the campaign "We, women, are water" in March 2018. This video was launched as part of this campaign, and emphasizes the importance of recognizing water as a common good.
Video / 12 September 2018
Latin American partner organizations of GAGGA launched the campaign "We, women, are water" in March 2018. This video was launched as part of this campaign, and emphasizes the role of women in the sustainable management of water in Latin America.