Oil pollution in Niger Delta: Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland Report; Unep

nigerian-coast-oil
Activists from Enviromental Rights Action in Nigeria explore oil damages in the Niger Delta, April 2010. Caption and Photo source: ©© S.U

Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland: A UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Report

50 years of oil pollution in Nigeria’s Ogoniland region may require the world’s biggest ever clean-up, that could take 20-30 years ,the UN environmental agency said today, as it released a long awaited for report on the issue.

At the request of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, UNEP has conducted an independent assessment of the environment and public health impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta, and options for remediation. (unep)

The UN Environment Programme also called for the oil industry and the Nigerian government to contribute $1 billion to a clean-up fund for the region that has been devastated by oil pollution.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) has announced that Shell and other oil firms systematically contaminated a 1,000 sq km (386 sq mile) area of Ogoniland, in the Niger delta, with disastrous consequences for human health and wildlife.

“50 years of oil pollution in the Niger Delta region had “penetrated further and deeper than many had supposed” showing that communities have “faced a severe health risk, with some families drinking water with high levels of carcinogens”…


Niger Delta Oil Devastation
Niger Delta oil disaster. Caption and Photo source: ©© Sosialistisk Ungdom – SU

UNEP Official Press release

The Niger Delta is an area of dense mangrove rainforest in the southern tip of Nigeria.

Excerpts;

“The environmental restoration of Ogoniland could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken if contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and important ecosystems such as mangroves are to be brought back to full, productive health.

A major new independent scientific assessment, carried out by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), shows that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed.

The assessment has been unprecedented.

Over a 14-month period, the UNEP team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.

Detailed soil and groundwater contamination investigations were conducted at 69 sites, which ranged in size from 1,300 square metres (Barabeedom-K.dere, Gokana local government area (LGA) to 79 hectares (Ajeokpori-Akpajo, Eleme LGA).

Altogether more than 4,000 samples were analyzed, including water taken from 142 groundwater monitoring wells drilled specifically for the study and soil extracted from 780 boreholes.

Key Findings
Some areas, which appear unaffected at the surface, are in reality severely contaminated underground and action to protect human health and reduce the risks to affected communities should occur without delay says UNEP’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland.

In at least 10 Ogoni communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened, according to the assessment that was released today.

In one community, at Nisisioken Ogale, in western Ogoniland, families are drinking water from wells that is contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines.

The site is close to a Nigerian National Petroleum Company pipeline.

“The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price, as this assessment underlines”.

It is UNEP’s hope that the findings can break the decades of deadlock in the region and provide the foundation upon which trust can be built and action undertaken to remedy the multiple health and sustainable development issues facing people in Ogoniland.”

The clean-up of Ogoniland will not only address a tragic legacy but also represents a major ecological restoration enterprise with potentially multiple positive effects ranging from bringing the various stakeholders together in a single concerted cause to achieving lasting improvements for the Ogoni people, said the UNEP Executive Director.

UNEP today, August 4th 2011, presented its report to the President of Nigeria, The Hon Goodluck Jonathan, in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Among its other findings are:….

… Reforms of environmental government regulation, monitoring and enforcement, and improved practices by the oil industry are also recommended in the report…

Read more: Original UNEP Official Press Release

Read the Full UNEP Report: Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland, Nigeria

This report details how the UNEP team carried out their work, where samples were taken and the findings that they have made.

The UNEP assessment, alongside options for remediation, was conducted at the request of the Government of Nigeria. If requested, UNEP is willing to remain a committed partner of the Nigerian authorities and of the Ogoni people as they address the environmental challenges ahead.

Oil in Nigeria: a history of spills, fines and fights for rights, Guardian UK
Ever since oil was discovered in the Niger Delta, in 1956, it has been a source of strife.

The world’s biggest ever clean-up, that could take 20-30 years, BBC
The UN assessment of Ogoniland, which lies in the Niger Delta, said 50 years of oil operations in the region had “penetrated further and deeper than many had supposed.

Shoreline Changes And Associated Coastal Land Loss Along The U.S. Gulf Of Mexico

coastal-erosion-usgs
Coastal erosion. Inlets can open during severe storms and fragment narrow barrier islands. Inlet opening is especially pertinent for the Outer Banks of North Carolina due to narrow island widths and low elevations. Image source: USGS

National Assessment Of Shoreline Change: Part 1 Historical Shoreline Changes And Associated Coastal Land Loss Along The U.S. Gulf Of Mexico, A report by Robert A. Morton, Tara L. Miller, and Laura J. Moore / U.S. Geological Survey

Executive Summary

Beach erosion is a chronic problem along most open- ocean shores of the United States. As coastal populations continue to grow and community infrastructures are threatened by erosion, there is increased demand for accurate information regarding past and present trends and rates of shoreline movement.

There is also a need for a comprehensive analysis of shoreline movement that is consistent from one coastal region to another. To meet these national needs, the U.S. Geological Survey is conducting an analysis of historical shoreline changes along open-ocean sandy shores of the conterminous United States and parts of Hawaii and Alaska.

One purpose of this work is to develop standard repeatable methods for mapping and analyzing shoreline movement so that periodic updates regarding coastal erosion and land loss can be made nationally that are systematic and internally consistent.

This report on states bordering the Gulf of Mexico (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) represents the first in a series that will eventually include the Atlantic Coast, Pacific Coast, and parts of Hawaii and Alaska. The report summarizes the methods of analysis, interprets the results, provides explanations regarding the historical and present trends and rates of change, and describes how different coastal communities are responding to coastal erosion.

Shoreline change evaluations are based on comparing three historical shorelines with a recent shoreline derived from lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) topographic surveys. The historical shorelines generally represent the following periods: 1800s, 1920s-1930s, and 1970s, whereas the lidar shoreline is 1998-2002. Long-term rates of change are calculated using all four shorelines (1800s to lidar shoreline), whereas short- term rates of change are calculated for the most recent period (1970s to lidar shoreline). The historical rates of change presented in this report represent past conditions and therefore are not intended for predicting future shoreline positions or rates of change.

Rates of erosion for the Gulf of Mexico region are generally highest in Louisiana along barrier island and headland shores associated with the Mississippi delta. Erosion is also rapid along some barrier islands and headlands in Texas, and barrier islands in Mississippi are migrating laterally. Highest rates of erosion in Florida are generally localized around tidal inlets. The most stable Gulf beaches are along the west coast of Florida where low wave energy and frequent beach nourishment minimize erosion. Some beach segments in Texas have accreted as a result of net longshore drift convergence, and around tidal inlets that have been stabilized by long jet- ties.

Seawalls and riprap revetments were constructed in all the Gulf Coast states as initial community responses to long-term beach erosion. Although some states, such as Florida, still permit shoreline stabilization structures, beach nourishment has become the preferred method of mitigating long- term erosion…

Read Original Report, USGS

Slowing climate change by targeting gases other than carbon dioxide

bench ocean
Photo source: ©© Chodab

By NOAA

Carbon dioxide remains the undisputed king of recent climate change, but other greenhouse gases measurably contribute to the problem. A new study, conducted by NOAA scientists and published online today in Nature, shows that cutting emissions of those other gases could slow changes in climate that are expected in the future.

Discussions with colleagues around the time of the 2009 United Nations’ climate conference in Copenhagen inspired three NOAA scientists – Stephen Montzka, Ed Dlugokencky and James Butler of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. – to review the sources of non-carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gases and explore the potential climate benefits of cutting their emissions.

Like CO2, other greenhouse gases trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Some of these chemicals have shorter lifetimes than CO2 in the atmosphere. Therefore cutting emissions would quickly reduce their direct radiative forcing — a measure of warming influence.

“We know that recent climate change is primarily driven by carbon dioxide emitted during fossil-fuel combustion, and we know that this problem is going to be with us a long-time because carbon dioxide is so persistent in the atmosphere,” Montzka said. “But lowering emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide could lead to some rapid changes for the better.”

Scientists know that stabilizing the warming effect of CO2 in the atmosphere would require a decrease of about 80 percent in human-caused CO2 emissions — in part because some of the carbon dioxide emitted today will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. In contrast, cutting all long-lived non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent could diminish their climate warming effect substantially within a couple of decades. Cutting both CO2 and non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions to this extent could result in a decrease in the total warming effect from these greenhouse gases this century, the new paper shows.

For the new analysis, the researchers considered methane; nitrous oxide; a group of chemicals regulated by an international treaty to protect Earth’s ozone layer; and a few other extremely long-lived greenhouse gases currently present at very low concentrations.

The new review paper describes the major human activities responsible for these emissions, and notes that steep cuts (such as 80 percent) would be difficult. Without substantial changes to human behavior, emissions of the non-CO2 greenhouse gases are expected to continue to increase.

The climate-related benefits of reductions in non-CO2 greenhouse gases have limits, Montzka and his colleagues showed. Even if all human-related, non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions could be eliminated today, it would not be enough to stabilize the warming influence from all greenhouse gases over the next 40 years – unless CO2 emissions were also cut significantly.

The scientists also noted in the paper the complicated connections between climate and greenhouse gases, some of which are not yet fully understood. The non-CO2 gases studied have natural sources as well as human emissions, and climate change could amplify or dampen some of those natural processes, Dlugokencky said. Increasingly warm and dry conditions in the Arctic, for example, could thaw permafrost and increase the frequency of wildfires, both of which would send more methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“The long-term necessity of cutting carbon dioxide emissions shouldn’t diminish the effectiveness of short-term action. This paper shows there are other opportunities to influence the trajectory of climate change,” Butler said. “Managing emissions of non-carbon dioxide gases is clearly an opportunity to make additional contributions.”

Original Article, NOAA

Ban turtle eggs trade in Malaysia: WWF

sea turtle egg
“El nacimiento.” A sea turtle egg. Photo source: ©©Emmanuel Frezzotti

Excerpts;

WWF urged Malaysia to impose a national ban on the trade and consumption of turtle eggs to ensure the survival of the marine creatures.

Turtles once arrived in their thousands to lay eggs on Malaysian beaches but are now increasingly rare due to poaching and coastal development.

Featured image: Green turtle surfacing, Jeff Seminoff / NOAA

Read Full Article, PhysOrg (08-03-2011)

Sea Turtle Eggs Poaching Legalized in Costa Rica: The Debate

The Endangered Green Sea Turtles, WWF

Ice-shelf collapse from subsurface warming as a trigger for Heinrich events.

melting glaciers
Photo source: ©© Trey Ratcliff
Heinrich events, first described by marine geologist Hartmut Heinrich, occurred during the last glacial period, or “ice age”. During such events, armadas of icebergs broke off from glaciers and traversed the North Atlantic. The icebergs contained rock mass eroded by the glaciers, and as they melted, this matter was dropped onto the sea floor as “ice rafted debris”. Scientists drilling through marine sediments can distinguish six distinct events in cores of mud retrieved from the sea floor, which are labelled H1-H6 going back in time; there is some evidence that H3 and H6 differ from other events.
The icebergs’ melting caused prodigious amounts of fresh water to be added to the North Atlantic. Wikipedia

Excerpts;

An analysis of prehistoric “Heinrich events” that happened many thousands of years ago, creating mass discharges of icebergs into the North Atlantic Ocean, make it clear that very small amounts of subsurface warming of water can trigger a rapid collapse of ice shelves.

One of the most vulnerable areas, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, would raise global sea level by about 11 feet if it were all to melt…

Read Full Article, By Oregon State University, in Science Daily

Ancient Tides Quite Different From Today

ancient-tides-nasa-1
High tide in the Bay of Fundy.

Tucked into a pocket between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy is famous for having dramatic differences between its high and low tides. In fact, the tides observed here are tied with Ungava Bay (located farther north) for the largest tides on Earth. Under typical conditions, high tide at the head (the most inland part) of the Bay of Fundy is as much as 17 meters (about 56 feet) higher than low tide. Caption and photos source: NASA

ancient-tides-nasa
Low tide in the Bay of Fundy.

Excerpts; By The Oregon State University, in Science Daily

The ebb and flow of the ocean tides, generally thought to be one of the most predictable forces on Earth, are actually quite variable over long time periods, in ways that have not been adequately accounted for in most evaluations of prehistoric sea level changes.

Geological forces that act over hundreds to millions of years, such as plate tectonics, ice ages, land uplift, erosion and sedimentation, have caused the tides in certain places to vary wildly throughout history, according to a new study lead by David Hill, Oregon State University, and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

“Understanding the past will help us better predict tidal changes in the future,” David Hill said. “And there will be changes, even with modest sea level changes like one meter.”…

Read Original Article

Island of Kish, Iran and Majuro Children, Marschall Islands; By Mark Edward Harris

Kish Iran Mark Edward Harris

Kish Iran Mark Edwards Harris
Island of Kish, Iran

By © Mark Edward Harris

“On the Iranian island of Kish in the Persian Gulf, a grandfather holds up his granddaughter
as the sun sets behind the stranded Greek cargo ship the Koula F, which ran aground in 1966.”

This photograph was taken in 2008.

Harris’s uncommonly keen eye turns photos of people and their environments into seductive images that banish travel photography clichés. The viewer is left with a fresh sense of wonder at the world’s beauty and the artist’s skill.

Mark Edward Harris Majuro, Wanderlust
Majuro Children, Marshall Islands

By Mark Edward Harris

“The photograph is of children playing on the island of Majuro in the Marshall Islands in 1997.”

Majuro Children is featured on the cover of Mark Edward Harris – Wanderlust Book

Wanderlust takes the viewer to visit tribes in northern Vietnam, down China’s Yangtze River, into the tense demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, to the top of Mt. Fuji, through Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and around the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the exotic islands of the South Pacific and the Caribbean.

Colombian Pacific Beaches at the Mouth of Bahia de Buenaventura; By William J. Neal & Orrin H. Pilkey

By William J. Neal and Orrin H. Pilkey

Among the world’s most remote beaches are those that line the 62 barrier islands of Colombia’s Pacific Coast. Only two roads lead over the Andes to access points from which the islands and their few, very small, subsistence coastal villages can be reached by boat.

The largest community is the port city of Buenaventura (population ~325,000), well inland at the head of Bahia de Buenaventura, with boat access to the local tourist village of La Bocana at the mouth of the bay. Near this village are small headland beaches, and across the mouth of the bay are the barrier-island beaches on El Soldado and Santa Barbara islands.The only other coastal city on the Pacific Coast of Colombia is Tumaco (population 90,000) near the border with Ecuador. There are a number of small villages on the islands, most with populations of a few hundred.

The origin and character of these beaches are representative of much of Colombia’s Pacific Coast, and their near-natural state means that island and beach dynamics have been little influenced by humans. This character and their location on a tectonically active plate boundary are what led us to make coring expeditions to the islands in search of historic tsunami deposits.

Located just north of the Equator, the islands are covered by tropical rainforest and backed by extensive mangrove swamps, rather than the more familiar salt marshes of mid-latitude barriers. Rainfall here is about 200 inches per year, and on the nearby crest of the Andes, 25 miles from the coast, as much as 300 inches per year. The islands formed on the edge of the narrow coastal plain adjacent to the Northern Andes.

The sand supply for the beaches comes from numerous short streams that feed large volumes of sediment directly to the inlets and thence to the beaches. The immediate Andes sediment source for the beaches is reflected in the color and composition of the sand. The fine-to-medium sand is dark green-to-gray with white specks of shell fragments. The sand is well sorted, that is, there is little variation in grain size on the beaches, except in the form of occasional shell lags. The dark color is due to the dominance of sand-sized rock fragments derived from volcanic and metamorphic rocks. In addition, the sand contains abundant dark heavy minerals such as magnetite.

Tiny mica flakes are also abundant; the flat, glassy mineral grains provide the beach with a beautiful reflective sparkle on sunny days. The presence of mica is an indication that the sand has not been transported far or weathered for very long.

The beaches of the Pacific coast of Colombia are, for the most part, peaceful, quiet, pristine and stunning in their beauty. The quiet is usually broken by birdcalls from the jungle and countless splashing, diving pelican.
—William J. Neal and Orrin H. Pilkey

Beach sand composed of abundant rock fragments and diverse minerals is an indication of immaturity. Mature beach sand such as that on Moroccan and southeastern U.S. beaches has generally lost many of its original and more unstable minerals from the source rocks except for the very stable quartz and feldspar grains and is light colored. To achieve such maturity may take millions of years.

Apparently there is a local belief that the black sand has some therapeutic effect. We watched an old man being buried by his friends as he lay on his back in a shallow ditch. He held an umbrella in his hand to ward off the rain on his still exposed head. He claimed that occasional burial in beach sand helped reduce the aches and pains from his arthritis.

The tidal amplitude here is close to 4 meters, the presumed upper limit for barrier island formation. “Dry” beach width (above the high-tide line) is narrow (tens of feet), and the high tidal range and frequent rainfall keep the beaches wet. Beach sediment is transported by longshore currents, and spits are common at the ends of the islands. Strong tidal currents carry sand out to form horn-like sand bar tidal deltas that extend far seaward from the ends of barrier islands adjacent to large inlets. These submerged ebb-tidal deltas are a navigational hazard even for the ubiquitous dugout canoes with Yamaha outboard motors. Dugout canoes are now manufactured in lumberyards.

Although storms here on the Equator are infrequent, short-term fluctuations in sea level do occur, particularly during times of El Niño when the spring high tides are at a maximum, and during which beach erosion is common (as much as 3 feet of beach retreat on a single tidal cycle). Longer-term erosion is due in part to the global sea-level rise and can be estimated from air photo studies, as well as from field evidence such as stands of dead mangrove trees being actively eroded. With the exception of the accreting spits at the end of the island, from 1961 to 1992 (dates of available air photos) El Soldado showed an average rate of erosion of 16 ft/yr, maintaining the concave seaward shape of its coast. During the same time interval, Santa Barbara Island eroded at even higher rates along its southern shore (up to 27 ft/yr), while accreting at about 33 ft/yr along its northern reach, with an even higher rate in the spits.

On average, it is likely that sea level rise is quite rapid here. Apparently, as the forces of colliding plates cause the Andes to rise, the coastal margin, including the barrier islands and beaches, subsides. Subsidence events are usually accompanied by earthquakes. The Tumaco Earthquake of 1979 caused one 50-mile-long coastal segment to subside as much as 5 feet overnite, resulting in significant and sudden beach retreat. This earthquake also caused a tsunami that resulted in 220 deaths and significant damage to the village of San Juan de la Costa.

When storms do occur, particularly at high tide, these low islands are easily over-washed, as there are no significant beachfront dunes to block the path of storm waves. Perhaps the lack of dunes occurs because the beach sand is continually wet, and sand does not readily blow landward to form dunes. Countering this is the fact that we could feel sand on our legs on windy days, indicating that sand is being transported by wind. J.R.L. Allen, British sedimentologist, made the same observation on the tropical beaches of the Niger Delta barrier islands and was puzzled about the lack of dunes there.

The most serious “fly in the ointment” is trash (garbage), lots of it, at least on the beaches closest to the entrance to Buenaventura Bay. The problem is that some residents of Buenaventura dump their refuse in the bay and when the winds and tides are just right, the cans, bottles and plastic float away to land on the nearest beaches. In recent years, La Bocana and the associated tourist beaches have been kept cleaner by regular trash removal, in an effort to encourage ecotourism.

The beaches of the Pacific coast of Colombia are, for the most part, peaceful, quiet, pristine and beautiful. The quiet is usually broken by birdcalls from the jungle and countless splashing, diving pelicans in numbers far larger than we have seen elsewhere. The Colombian coast and its beaches are stunning in their beauty.

References
Correa Arango, I.D. and Restrepo Angel, J.D., 2002, Geologia y Oceanografia del Delta del Rio San Juan: Litoral Pacifico Colombiano. Fondo Editorial Universidad-EAFIT, Medellin, Colombia, 221p.

Martinez, J.O., Gonzalez, J.L., Pilkey, O.H. and Neal, W.J. 1995. Tropical Barrier Islands of Colombia’s Pacific Coast: Journal of Coastal Research, v 11, p 432 – 453.

The mission of the Santa Aguila Foundation is to raise awareness of and mobilize people against the ongoing decimation of coastlines around the world.

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