The Niger Delta, spanning 70,000 square kilometers – equivalent to 7.5 percent of Nigeria’s total land mass – is home to 20 million people. In the Niger Delta, amidst the wild lands and individuals, 2.7 million barrels of oil are extracted per day. One government agency, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), collects data and reports the amounts of petroleum jettisoned into the environment.
The NNPC places the petroleum quantity spilled at 2,300 cubic meters, averaging 300 individual annual spills. Nigerian federal government figures estimate more than 7,000 oil spill incidents between 1970 and 2000. Between nine million and 13 million barrels have been spilled in the Niger Delta since 1958. Despite this data, the World Bank argues that the exact quantity of petroleum may actually be 10 times greater, as oil spill incidents may not always be reported.
Technology such as BIOCLEAN, provided by The U.S. nonprofit Sustainability International, is making cleaning the Niger Delta easier and more efficient. BIOCLEAN restores contaminated sites and decontaminates in less than 30 days with one application. Chinyere Nnadi is the founder of Sustainability International; motivated by the success of new technology, he has collaborated with the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition (BSIC). BSIC develops and implements solutions that can address social and environmental challenges. Blockchain-based solutions track transactions such as votes casted in elections and raw material sourcing.
Alongside the efforts of nonprofits such as Sustainability International, the one billion dollar clean-up plan signed last year by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, continues along. The plan was devised by the collaboration of UN engineers, oil companies and the Nigerian government. As a part of this plan, factories are built to process and clean tens of thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil. In addition to cleaning, the plan mandates a mass replanting of mangroves.
The Niger Delta has endured years and years of environmental damage. The uncountable amounts of oil spilled may seem as dark and gloomy as the substance itself; however, innovation and environmental sustainability will lead to the eventual clean-up of the Niger Delta. If current efforts are able to continue making progress, it is possible the Niger Delta will be cleaned in less than 25 years, with all the swamps, creeks, fishing grounds and mangroves restored.
– Yosef Mahmoud