National, News

Oil companies ignore environmental regulations-Napwon

By William Madouk

National Minister of Environment and Forestry, Josephine Napwon Cosmas, has faulted oil companies operating in South Sudan for disobeying environmental standards.

Napwon said her docket is mandated with the protection and conservation of the environment to certify sustainable use of environmental resources to meet the needs of the current and coming generations.

“The oil companies are not adhering to the expected environmental standards and best practices in the upstream and midstream facilities,” the minister said.

According to her, this triggered environmental problems manifested through the recurrent incidents of deformities in a number of children, animals, and other living organisms in oil-producing areas.

“The ministry has been receiving reports on the pollution in the oil fields from the exploitation of new wells, abandoned wells, and existing facilities with produced water and chemicals,” Napwon revealed.

Based on Article 14 of the Constitution, the companies were required to conduct an annual environmental audit, as quarterly monitoring reports of their activities, and submit them to the Ministry for approval.

“It is worth noting that these companies don’t adhere to these requirements,” she complained.

“If at all they conduct periodic environmental monitoring and environmental audits, they don’t submit the reports to the ministry in charge of the environment in the country,” she continued.

Minister Napwon cited the Petroleum Act, 2012, which gives the Ministry of Petroleum both regulatory and oversight roles in environmental management, as contributing to the challenges her docket faces.

For instance, decommissioning of abandoned wells and restoration of degraded areas are done without the involvement of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

She added that the Environment and Forestry Bill 2023 has been drafted and will be given to the Ministry of Justice, cabinet, and finally the legislature.

If enacted, it would tackle oil, gas, mining, and environmental issues, as well as the creation of the South Sudan Environment Authority as a semi-autonomous management body per agreement.

“All these efforts need a budget, and the current budget of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is very low compared to the environmental problems we are supposed to address,” Napwon stressed.

“The budget is so little that I cannot even go for evaluation or monitoring in the oil field because I need to charter a plane; I cannot go with my car or trek to Unity State,” she lamented.

The Minister of Environment appealed to lawmakers to increase the budget, adding that if her docket receives enough funds, they could carry out an independent environmental audit and not wait for companies.

She affirmed that despite crippling challenges, her ministry would endeavor to fulfill its mandate so that the environment in South Sudan remained safe.


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