Remediating South Sudan's War-Induced Petroleum Environmental Damage: Environmental Baseline Conditions and Current Impacts

This paper reviews the existing literature to determine the adequacy of evidence and extent of the environmental impacts in the oil producing areas in South Sudan. The following is revealed: Evidence from previous studies shows that there is a serious environmental and social disaster in the three oil producing areas, even though such evidence does not generate enough consensus for the decision makers; Environmental impacts assessments (EIA) conducted before the oil operations reveal that the air in these locations was of good quality and the water was safe for both human and animal consumption, except for the pockets with high concentration of salt in groundwater in the Um Ruwaba geological region; Still, many parameters of environmental quality usually recognized by World Health Organization (WHO) have not been tested in both the EIAs and related environmental studies. In summary, existing evidence links high concentrations of salt and heavy metals to oil exploration, development and production, which are the cause of the widely reported birth defects, miscarriages, infertility, and cancers in the affected areas. We recommend a comprehensive, independent environmental and social assessment to determine the extent of environmental and social impacts. Resulting insights could be used to develop remediation measures to restore the environment and address related health and social problems. In the long term, results from this assessment could help lay the foundation for sustainable development, provide oil companies with new social license to operate, avert potential conflict and ecological disasters, and aid in building a lasting peace in the country.