By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan Thursday announced a comprehensive environmental audit of all its oil – producing fields in a bid to reduce pollution following years of negligence and witlessness.
Petroleum Minister Puot Kang Chol said comprehensive environmental audit of all the country’s producing oilfields is to inspect the impact of pollution on the people and the land.
Minister said his ministry formed the committee that comprised of all agencies of the government and include the civil society to do the selection of the firms to carry out environment audit. Currently, 11 tenders are in its finale scrutinizing from the committee – both are international tenders or companies.
“I am pleased to announce the full environment audit in all the oil fields of the Republic of South Sudan – the audit will come in the current oil fields of block 3 & 7, block 1, 2 & 4 and block 5 A,” Kang said.
Tender for audit comes amid efforts to reduce pollution affecting communities living in oil-producing areas in South Sudan.
This audit will allow the country to put systems in place to prevent further damage and pollution as the country looks to ramp up production.
In August 2019, President Salva Kiir warned that his government would be taking a stronger stance against pollution in oil-producing areas. He warned: “I will not tolerate irresponsible activities in the oil sector.”
The lack of environmental standards and guidelines to safeguard the exploration and exploitation in the extractive industry has led to pollution in the oilfields and in the surrounding areas.
Despite the 2012 Petroleum Act that imposed high health and safety standards on oil production activities.
This had caused losses of properties and livestock, losses of grazing land, as well as deforestation, soil and water contamination and health issues in and around oil-producing areas resulted a human deformation, infant deformities, miscarriage and death.
“We are here to please the law, not individual and I would want the committee to make sure whether they do, they do it within a parameter of the law, not the minister or individual,” said Kang.
Kang said the whole world and our citizens were being looking after us, they were condemned us that something need to done about our environment.
“It is time to save the life of our people and to save our environment. “I say lives of people first – this oil can deplete tomorrow but our land should not deplete – the land must remain there because is the first resource that our people have, not the oil,” Kang told the press in Juba. “We need to protect the lives of our people and we should not give them any reason to think that oil is the problem to them but instead to be blessed to them, particularly to the oil – producing communities. So, whatever we do let have it at the back of our minds that the people living in land and that land come first before the oil itself, therefore we must save lives and the land,” he added.
Oil is the dominant source of revenue for the East African’s youngest nation, which has boosted output to stand at about 170,000 barrels per day, as it struggles to rebuild an economy shattered by six years of civil war that killed nearly 400,000 people and uprooted four million people from their homes.
Mary Ayen, Acting Speaker of the Council States acknowledged that the oil pollution has caused uncalled damages on the locals, which need urgently bold decision to mitigate the suffering on time.
“What is taking place is not a joke,” said Ayen, seeing that human being is deformity – we witnessed kids are deformities – this is not the nation we want, we want everyone to enjoys free, have a dignify life, healthy and enjoys all the basic rights,” she added.
Ayen further said the life of the people and environment is a most better because at the end we want resources to enhance our lives.
She urges the oil companies to cooperate with the government and do the best practice to the oil – producing communities.
Last year, the SUDD Institute documented 13 cases of babies born with deformities in Melut, Ruweng and Rubkona in the country’s northern part.
Also, a research conducted by a German organization, Sign of Hope, years ago found that more than 180,000 locals who live near oil fields use water that is contaminated by the oil companies.
The actual work of the full environment audit will kick on after the finalization of tender process that due to commence at the end of March and to continue for the period of six (6) months.
The audit exercise is expected to reveal the environmental damage that may have been caused by the oil activities over the years since the start of oil production in then Sudan in the late 1990.
“We don’t want to assume the findings but we believe whatever they come up with, being the government and partners should be ready to accept and implement whatever they recommend for us to do and also to mitigate any further pollution of the environment,” the minister said.