Firstly pollution in Brazil:
At the end of last week a Brazilian court fined the local units of Shell and BASF a total of BRL1.1 billion ($654 million) in compensation and medical costs to workers who were harmed by contamination at a chemicals plant in Paulinia, Sao Paulo.
The Paulinia unit was built by Shell in the late 1970s and was sold to Cyanamid in the early nineties. BASF later bought Cyanamid and shut the Paulinia plant down in 2002.
The ruling covers former employees of all three companies.
The former workers suffered health problems because of contamination at the plant. Dozens of former employees have been diagnosed with prostate, thyroid and other types of cancer, circulatory, liver and intestinal illnesses, as well as infertility.
The two companies will also have to pay 64,500 reais in damages to each former worker and any children born during or after their service at the plant. The payments cover medical treatment, exams and individual damages.
BASF and Shell said they will appeal the decision. BASF said the ruling was “absurd,” as the contamination was “caused and acknowledged by Shell,” according to the report.
Shell said there was no “technical evidence” to suggest that there were any problems that could have harmed people’s health.
Secondly, pollution in Nigeria: in the country, the long-standing row over who is to blame over the country’s chronic pollution continues.
Amongst the communities in the Delta, there is total outrage and disbelief after a $10 million, 3-year study into the pollution by UNEP is set to exonerate Shell.
The study by UNEP – which has been paid for by Shell – is due to report that only 10% of oil pollution in Ogoniland has been caused by equipment failures and company negligence. It concludes that that the rest has come from bunkering oil and sabotage.
The head of the UNEP team, Mike Cowing, said that the 300 known oil spills in the Ogoniland region of the delta caused massive damage, but added that 90% of the spills had been caused by “bunkering” gangs trying to steal oil.
His comments have caused deep offence amongst the Ogoni. Ben Ikari, an Ogoni activist, told the Guardian: “Nobody from Ogoniland would be surprised, because the federal government of Nigeria and Shell are the same cabal that killed Ken Saro-Wiwa and others.”
Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends the Earth International and director of Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria’s leading environment group, said:
“It is incredible that the UN says that 90% is caused by communities. The UNEP assessment is being paid for by Shell. Their conclusions may be tailored to satisfy their client. We monitor spills regularly and our observation is the direct opposite of what UNEP is planning to report.”
Cowing defends the UN report.
“UNEP is not responsible for allocating responsibility for the number of spills being found in Ogoniland. Rather, we are focusing on the science. The figures referred to are those of the Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Petroleum Resources.”
And I’ll tell you more about those figures tomorrow…