Shell has a duty to clean up the on-going legacy of its oil operations in the Niger Delta, according to a report from the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR).
The Delta is one of the most oil-polluted environments in the world, with an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of oil having been spilled since Shell first began extracting oil in the 1950s.
The company is already facing a lawsuit in the Netherlands in relation to alleged oil pollution in Nigeria, and in June 2009 was forced to pay out $15.5 million to the indigenous Ogoni population over human rights abuses in the region.
The ECCR report says Shell and its subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), could reduce community opposition by taking immediate action to:
- end gas flaring;
- replace ageing pipelines;
- provide sustainable drinking water for local communities;
- introduce on-going human rights training for all staff.
The report says that gas flaring in particular constitutes a 'daily reminder to communities of Shell's apparent valuing of production above environmental and public health concerns'.
Shell pledged in 2007 to end gas flaring but has since cited lack a of funding from the Nigerian government for its failure to meet the pledge.
The authors of the report acknowledge that the Niger Delta's problems are partly a result of government corruption, but argue that Shell has a duty to prevent the damage it is causing the local communities and environment.
'Nigeria receives a huge income from oil yet largely fails to invest in human development in the Delta, and often enough the Nigerian security forces have been among the worst oppressors of their own people.
'No multinational company can claim to be ethical if it extracts resources and generates wealth from a society mired in poverty and human rights abuse,' says the report.
The report also recommends that Shell staff pay should be linked to progress on human rights and environmental challenges in the Delta.
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