By Ray Fleming

A report on one of the world's worst oil spills is due to be released by the United Nations Environment Programme today.
Not BP's Gulf of Mexico misadventure, bad though that was, but Shell's devastation of parts of the Niger Delta in Africa which began in 1989 and intensified in 2008. The contrast between BP's high-level effort to deal swiftly with the problem in the Gulf of Mexico and the indifference shown by Shell in Nigeria is striking.

For many years Shell insisted that the spills were the work of local vandals who were sabotaging the pipelines but advance information on the UN report says that Shell have accepted responsibility following legal action in British courts.

The cost could be very high since there are some 70'000 people living in the creeks and inlets that have been ruined who were dependent on the local eco-system for water, food and fuel.

The history of oil production in Nigeria since it began in 1958 has not been a happy one despite the financial benefits it has brought to the government.

Oil spills have been frequent but Shell and other companies have regularly preferred to pay the relatively small fines imposed by the Nigerian courts rather than undertake cleaning and rehabilitation of the affected land and waters. It is estimated that recovery of all these areas will take 25-30 years.

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