Gas flaring: Gelegele community decries pollution of rivers, farm lands

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For decades, activities of oil exploration companies have resulted in devastating impacts for host communities; causing damage to arable lands, resulting in adverse environmental consequences including pollution of rivers, destruction of aquatic life, poor agricultural output and inability to access the waters for fishing.

Gelegele community in Ovia North-East Local Government area of Edo State is one of those places where the impacts of oil pollution have become a threat to life and livelihood.

Indigenes of the community say the negative outcome of gas flaring and pollution in their land have resulted in heatwaves, widespread health problems and affected fishing which is a predominant occupation for natives.

Community members lamented that profits from oil and gas exploration have blinded extractive companies to the damage their activities are causing to the land and its people.

A native of Gelegele, Babs Pawuru who said the land is endowed with many natural resources including solid minerals as well as oil and gas, claimed the community has been ravaged by unending gas flaring, belching right in the heart of the land with flow stations situated close to residential buildings.

Pawuru, who is also the President of Host Communities Network, said the community has been living with the sad realities of air and environmental pollution amid other socio-economic and livelihood issues.

‘‘This gas flaring is bad; the intensity of the flame is so much that you cannot even stay near the community. It generates so much heat that people cannot sleep. Gelegele people are suffering because of the actions of oil companies and the negligence of policymakers.

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‘‘If you go around the community, many indigenes are sick from all manner of diseases, the health of the people has been impacted negatively. Even the road leading to Gelegele is so bad that you will need to take panadol when you get home, yet they are extracting natural resources from this community.’’

He lamented that the economic status of the community has also been impacted negatively, stressing that fishermen toil all night at the river but go home with nothing in the morning as the pollution in the rivers have killed all the fishes.

A lady fishmonger, who spoke to our reporter in pidgin English narrated her experience thus: ‘’Before now if you go river, you go see fish catch, but now if you go river to see one fish catch to feed your family na war. This oil na im dey cause all this problem, fish don run from our river.“

An ex-youth president of Gelegele community, who did not give his name, also decried the effect of gas flaring on infrastructure in the community, saying new houses built in the land have begun to deteriorate because of the heat.

‘This flare affects us on different levels, he said, look at buildings in the community, the flare has destroyed all of it, when you build a house, in one year all the zincs are condemned. There’s no fish in the river or animals in the forest because of the vibration used in gas flaring.

These ecological and health-related problems are just a few of the many that host communities have to deal with a major reason why sustainable environment campaigners are now teaching communities the basics of survival amid pollution.

Recently, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, during a capacity building activity, charged community members to be vigilant and report happenings in their environment.

An environmentalist, Morris Alagoa, who spoke to journalists, said he is training indigenes to build solidarity and provide solutions to their environmental and livelihood challenges, also tasking them to identify and work on the problems they face daily as a result of the pollution.

“After identifying your challenges with gas flaring and oil exploitation, it is time to take action. Once you agree to act as a community everyone must ensure to comply and work in the best interest of the community.”

He warned natives to collectively agree and adhere to decisions taken as a group if their actions are to get the desired impact.

“If you see something wrong, be ready to say it out loud and not be silent over it. Team up with bodies and organizations that fight against injustices. If you speak up people will come together to fight with you against such injustice.’’

‘‘Everyone has a role to play in the interest of ensuring the sustainability of our environment,’’ he advised.

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