Don’t drink the water

Posted: June 26, 2010 by undergroundfisherman in Environment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

BP have received torrents of criticism lately, and while the Gulf of Mexico disaster is the most high-profile ecological case right now, it is certainly not the only one

The recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reignited the debate as to the impact human processes are having on the future of our planet, both in the long and short term. In Morgan City, Louisiana, their annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival – based on the two main industries in the area – took on a whole new meaning as tens of thousands of barrels worth of oil seep into the water on the southeastern seaboard every day. This is certainly the most high-profile ecological disaster in a long time, but there are so many other man-made calamities that have gone unnoticed to the public in other parts of the world, here are a few…

Jharia Coalfields, India

This Unreported World documentary really illustrates the plight of the local people in the Jharia region of India. India’s coal mines are a vital part of the economy, providing the fuel for iron smelting to continue their thriving steel industry. The type of coal found in Jharia can catch fire when it oxidises in the air, causing blazes both underground and on the surface, and which often last for years.

Naturally enough, this has had a huge impact on the lives of those living close by, with cancers and respiratory ailments at twice the normal rates. Sadly, the villagers cannot simply up and leave, because they are trapped in a vicious circle wherein the mines provide them with a meagre existence, as they illegally scavenge coal to sell for food. At one stage the reporter describes it as “a vision of Hell”. Watch 9:58, where an eight-year old lad tries to bring a lump of coal (half the size of himself) home from the mine. It’s both poignant and surreal.

GASLAND film – Hydraulic Fracturing

New laws were passed in the US in 2005, which loosened the environmental regulations for oil and gas companies, allowing them to use hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas from underground. The effects of this process have been quite alarming in some areas, and this film looks at the effects on locals that this gas escaping into the air has done for the health of the people. Another interesting film, and one which proves that it is not always the third world who are left with these problems. Since then, a 2009 law regarding the protection of the drinking water supplies (which had been greatly affected by hydraulic fracturing) was put in place, but many believe it does not go far enough.

Niger Delta

The oil-rich deposits in this region have been the source of great hardship and suffering for locals. All logic suggests that when one finds oil in their country, that this oil will benefit their people and their economy. The truth is, that it only benefits a small minority, and the resulting battle between militia for a share of the oil has caused thousands to flee their homes. According to Greenpeace, 80% of their oil revenue only goes to 1% of the population.

MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta), a militia group which started out as a riposte to the corrupt Nigerian government, has now become just as corrupt as those they were trying to oust. They are an armed group and, of course, have many rival groups as well – all of this inevitably leads to blood being spilled, and none of the oil profits going towards ordinary Nigerian families. Much like in Jharia, locals often try to siphon some of the oil for themselves, but of course, opening up highly-pressured pipes causes serious accidents, fires and further damage to the environment. Ross Kemp’s excellent “In Search of…” series explores the conflict as well…


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