In Nigeria, a major plan is underway to clean up the Niger Delta. If successful, it will reverse decades of environmental damage to the oil-rich region.
Leading the effort is the governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. Prominent oil firms have signed on to the program, which involves stopping gas flaring and oil spills and cleaning up polluted rivers and farm lands.
The initiative is part of a larger goal of developing the infrastructure and economy of the area, according to the governor.
The first priority, he says, “is to ensure that oil companies introduce technologies that are environmentally friendly.
They should stop air pollution, they should stop water pollution, so we are putting pressure on them, and I can tell you that Chevron, which is operating in Delta State, has given us a commitment of 15 months to stop polluting the air.”
The next step, says Uduaghan, is cleaning up the water and the farms.
He intends to use the cleanup of the area as a catalyst for industrial growth, he says.
“It is part of our overall infrastructural and industrial development in the state. First is the use of environmentally friendly technology, no carbon economy….” The state is moving to reduce its dependence on oil, he says.
“If we are able to regenerate our waters, regenerate our soil, there will be increased activity in the agricultural sector. The people can go back to fishing and companies can come and fish in our territorial waters.”
Fighting and other problems encountered in efforts to develop the Delta took a toll on the state in 2009, says Uduaghan.
“It has been challenging. You could recall that 2009 was the year of what they call the economic meltdown, which affected Nigeria and Delta State. The price of oil was severely affected….”
And there was the amnesty situation to deal with, he said.
“We are hoping that 2010 will be better.”