annual profits to be announced by Shell tomorrow should be used towards
paying off a bill estimated at more than $20bn (£10bn) for the damage
caused by its oil activities to local communities and the wider
environment, according to an alliance of human rights and green groups
including Friends of the Earth (FoE).
High crude prices mean the
Anglo-Dutch oil company is expected to show earnings of $25bn, up 17%.
It has left in its wake a legacy of oil spills, air pollution and
residents who pay the price of its operations while gaining few of the
financial benefits, claims a report today from the FoE-led Shell
Advertisements calling on Shell to "clean up its mess" will appear in
the Guardian and the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant tomorrow. They are
signed and financially supported by more than 7,000 people worldwide in
an effort to encourage directors to live up to the aims of their
corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies. Nnimmo Bassey, from
Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria, said: "Despite Shell's public
commitment to CSR and specific promise it has made to communities, life
on the fenceline can too often be likened to hell. From Nigeria to
Ireland, the Philippines to South Africa, Shell still too often fails
to respect the environment or the needs of local communities."
poor environmental record in Nigeria is given prominence in the report
which demands the company pay $10bn to clean up oil spills and
compensate communities in the Niger Delta. A further $1.5bn should be
spent ending gas flaring in the country with a similar amount being
paid immediately to the Ijaw community in line with a ruling in the
Nigerian high court. Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth
and others estimate that as much as 13m barrels of oil have been
spilled into the Niger Delta ecosystem over the last 50 years by Shell
and its partners, an amount they say is 50 times more than that
associated with the infamous Exxon Valdez tanker grounding off Alaska.
"The spills pollute the land and water of the communities. Drinking
water is affected, people get sick, fish populations die and farmers
lose their income because the soil of the land is destroyed," argue the
groups who go on to document a series of promises made by Shell to halt
flaring of excess gas in Nigeria. Flaring is held responsible for acid
rain in the Niger Delta which is said to corrode roofs, pollute lakes
and damage vegetation. The company is urged to halt flaring this year
by reinjecting the excess gas, processing it into liquefied natural gas
or shutting down those facilities where neither is an option.
bill from all Shell's activities worldwide is difficult to quantify,
according to the green group but is likely to be much higher than the
$20bn estimate. It also notes that Shell's claimed commitment to
renewable energy projects is undermined by the fact that less than 1%
of its earnings during the year came from wind or solar.
Griffiths at FoE said: "Shell is bleeding communities dry and $20bn is
just the beginning in quantifying Shell's true environmental damage."
said last night the report's claims "neither reflect the realities of
the situation and the very real progress made, nor represent the views
of the wider communities around these locations. Shell is committed to
being a good neighbour and maintains productive relationships with many
local communities and their representatives. For example, pipelines are
being replaced at SAPREF (Durban) in South Africa and more than 30% of
the flares are out in Nigeria with the remainder to be stopped in 2009."
has been operating in the Niger Delta since the 1930s and is by far the
largest operator with an output of more than 1m barrels a day. But the
90 oil and gas fields have suffered spills and sabotage, damaging the
livelihood of farmers and fishermen and threatening the half-million
Ogoni. In 2005 the high court of Nigeria found Shell gas flaring to be
a "gross violation" of human rights.