South Sudan Oil Production Goes On, Without Environment Laws Top story

6164 Views Juba, South Sudan

In short
The national legislative assembly’s Specialised Committee on Land, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment carried out visits to Palouch, Unity, Manga, Toma South and Toor Oil Fields in Unity and Upper Nile States in July 2013, and discovered gross damage to the environment

As oil steadily flows in South Sudan, the country has not yet passed legislation on the management and protection of the environment from damage by oil production-related activities.  

Oil production was shut down for about 14 months from 2011, due to disagreements between Sudan and South Sudan governments. Production in South Sudan resumed in April 2013, but the Environment Management and Protection Bill 2013 has yet to be tabled in parliament.  

Unity State, which Uganda Radio Network visited, is yet to form a law to protect the environment. The state has 5 oil fields, the largest being Unity Oil Field, with 126 wells.

The national legislative assembly’s Specialised Committee on Land, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment carried out visits to Palouch, Unity, Manga, Toma South and Toor Oil Fields in Unity and Upper Nile States in July 2013, and discovered gross damage to the environment.

The committee report’s findings indicate that in Palouch, Upper Nile State, around 100 hectares of forest were destroyed by contaminated water between 2000 and 2008.

The report also shows a photograph of a dead bird, submerged in a contaminated pond in Toma South Oil Field in Unity State.

According to the report, oil companies take advantage of the lack of access roads to most areas, and the inadequacy of liquid waste treatment facilities to cut costs, and are not keen on proper environmental protection measures.

The committee also found that oil leakages had mostly affected Manga, Toma South, Toor and Naar, caused by vandalism during the war between Khartoum and Juba. In some areas, pipelines had been fractured by pressure resulting from unexpected shut-down in February 2011.

Some of this damage to environment dates back to the 1990s when Sudan was still one country, but since the committee’s findings were published in July 2013, no measures have been taken.

William Garjang, a geologist and the Chairman of Unity State Oil Task Force, says that in 2010, tests discovered lead and other heavy metals in the water consumed by the communities, but these places are still used as water sources.

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The Greater Pioneer Operating Company operates a network of seven liquid waste treatment lagoons in Unity Oil Field. The facility treats water pumped out of the wells, but separated from the crude oil. The treatment process is natural and stage-by-stage, where grass is planted in the lagoons, to absorb the toxins the water comes out with.

But Amos Kor Dow Majok, the Supervisor at the Bioremediation Facility, says that even in the last lagoon, where the water is expected to evaporate, it is still not advisable for humans to consume it, because
the facility has worked for years without any upgrades.

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Sections 59 to 63 of the country’s Petroleum Act 2012 lay down requirements for conducting environmental impact assessments before commencement of exploration and production activities. It also requires oil companies to present environment management plans before any activities are carried out.

This part of the 2012 act also stipulates that licensed companies are liable for any pollution or damage to the environment.

South Sudan exports about 200, 000 barrels of crude oil per day. Its output from the two states of Unity and Upper Nile should be 350, 000 barrels per day, but some of the production areas are still shut down.The country’s budget is 95 percent dependant on oil revenue.