OpEd, Politics

Ruweng Oil; an adapted dilatory death

By Joseph Maker Mijok


Since the beginning of oil operation activities to date, the oil industry management in South Sudan has never shown a suitable attitude towards people’s health and their environment.

Although oil companies failed to perform their legal and ethical duties mandated in the national and international laws, the responsible authorities have decided to bury their heads in the sands. They have turned a blind eye to those witnessed health dilemmas; malformation birth and emergence of never existed new diseases which were surely resulted of environmental pollution caused by oil in oil production.

Since the beginning of this year to date, Ruweng Administrative Area reported four cases of deformities/ malformation, three children were born deformed this month, and due to a report made by the Government of Ruweng Administrative Area, through the Office of the Head Administrator for Health and Environment

  1. The first case happened on the 8th of January 2024, at Panrieng referral Hospital and the child was born with a deformity/ congenital defect of the anterior abdominal cover with sac.
  2. The second case, happened on the 3rd of April 2024 (Lake No County) and according to Doctor’s report, the Ultrasound scan done revealed abnormal twins at 33 weeks, therefore, an emergency Cesarean Section was done, and the outcome was twins with abnormal heads and distended abdomens, but all dead.
  3. The third case, happened a few days ago, exactly on the 9 of April in Yida county.

And according to statement made by health authorities, families of those deformed children have no any health history of any complications or deformity, Besides, there are many other cases which were/are not reported due to either scarcity and distance of health facilities (only Panrieng Primary Health Care Center) in addition to few centres owned by NGO in refugee camps or because of fear, ignorance and thus the cultural norms of local communities, that associate abnormalities with their believes, calling it “ACIIK” or “DIIT” and therefore dealing with (deformity or deformed newborn child) in special ways, additionally few women only get birth in hospitals.

moreover, lack of Modern Hospitals in the area, where documentation and other medical records which contain vital information on newborns, death rates, diseases rate ….etc. that can assist in easy detection of any abnormal increase or emergence of new diseases such that they can be controlled earlier; are consequently the factors which had played a vital role, urging responsible entities and concerned authorities in oil sector to neglect the severity of activities carried out in Ruweng, additional they also take advantage of disunity of Ruweng citizen and selfishness of their political elites, Members of Parliament, current leaders, and youth. For they have intentionally decided to turn their backs despite their collective knowledge and understanding of the root causes of the health traumas.

However, it’s hard to concisely refer to pollution roots causes in RUWENG to oil alone since there are many other activities in Ruweng that may cause the same results as that of oil, like

– Agricultural activities, pesticide spraying in agricultural areas of Dulanga, Ngabule…

– Mining activities i.e exploitation of surficial deposits such as sand in Panrieng and Kumagoon,  Laterite (marram}in Jamjang and Wunkur and artisanal mining in Pakuem.

– Deforestation due to population growth and the establishment of refugee camps.  And many others, making it hard to precisely determine the key contributor to ecological imbalance without conducting research.

In fact, looking  at GPOC’s current oil operational practice we can be quietly sure that oil is the lion’s contributor in Ruweng’s environmental destruction, proof that one could easily witness as he takes off  from Panrieng passing  through Tor – Wazin which is reared by Dolanga (one of the largest agricultural zones where most citizens of Ruweng carry out their farming activities) – Tomasouth oilfield – Alnarr oilfield – Pan-Akuach until he reaches Unity oilfield, as he looks at the wells, streams and surface water supplies that people used to drink/fish/bathe from, especially farmers, in addition to villages settled by locals and their  farms which are very close  to oil wells, thereby he will notice where the rope wretched because those supplies are fed by surface water making them venerable to pollution,  as GPOC dumped oil pills and waste barely in nearest areas around,

Although GPOC failed to perform its legal and ethical duties indicated in Petroleum Act 2012 and this can be manifested by many reports of kids being born with abnormalities, grass and trees dying and/ or withering, high levels of infertility, Miscarriages amongst pregnant women, skin diseases, fish dying in large numbers (alone) in the water amongst other oil pollution related reports in the Area.’’ And moreover, if one stares at the prevalence of diseases in Ruweng occupants: (infertility/blindness/cancers/brain and muscular diseases, appetites…etc.) and most of which result of chemicals, the same as oil manufacturing.

However numerous researches, reports and conferences had been held by different entities on the issue,  condemning the ways numerous IOC/JOC/NOC…etc. are carrying out their activities  as they are unsustainably operating oil in producing areas and hence promoting the culture of best practice of HSE which comply with relevant laws and regulations, and adhere to applicable standards and procedures and therefore avoid damage to nature and its properties in the hope that operating companies may take proactive steps and strive towards conservation of the environment, implementing controls to eliminate and still up to date there is no clear pathway on how to at least minimise environmental devastation to level it could be somehow safe,

Lastly, Correlating oil companies’ activities and their unsafe system of work with the action taken by responsible authorities in the government against operating companies,  one will be satisfied that the government never intended to take action against any of them as long as they are capable of feeding their treasury with hard currencies, because up to date there is no environmental act which is supposed to be a legal framework that anyone who desires to condemn the operating company can base his censure, besides government has nothing to benefit from performing EIA or environmental audit as it is fully clued about what companies are doing because companies bribe some officers to skip environmental feasibility so any attempt to make Environmental audit will be resisted by government indirectly through turning around and around.

In good faith, oil exploitation should be of great value in the lives of our people as it is one of the key assured sources of the country’s economy, but it doesn’t mean that it should be at the expense of the lives of communities occupying production areas.

Joseph Maker Mijok is a Petroleum geologist.

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