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Topic Update: Nigerian oil spills - a fix for an environmental disaster that is actually working!

Vicki Woolven

3rd November 2022

Many of you teach Nigeria as your NEE example for AQA GCSE Changing Economic World so will be familiar with the catastrophic Bodo oil spills of 2008 and 2009. But have you heard of Dr Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi and her amazing work?

The Niger Delta in southern Nigeria is one of the most polluted places on earth, plagued by oil spills caused by militant groups blowing up pipelines and a lack of maintenance by negligent oil companies. The land is soaked in oil and scorched by fire. However one incredible woman has a solution and is determined to clean up the damage.

Dr Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi, a biochemist at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, has been awarded the 2022 John Maddox Prize for engaging communities in conflict to research solutions to pollution in the oil fields of the Niger Delta. The judges commended her for putting forward evidence and trial methods for soil recovery, courageously advancing public discourse with sound science despite the personal risk. Read more about her award here -

Dr Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi's acceptance speech

Her solutions to cleaning up contaminated soil and water is relatively simple - bioremediation - planting vegetation that naturally removes pollutants in the soil, without the need to remove chemicals and dispose of them elsewhere.

She monitors polluted sites in order to prove the cause of pollution, once she has evidence she is able to persuade oil companies to alter their methods of extraction, and has been able to engage with them despite hostility, and has won over local people whilst persuading oil companies to pay for the environmental damage they have caused.

In a very high profile case Shell was ordered to compensate farmers for the damage caused by the Bodo oil spills, however Eucharia felt frustrated that the focus was on financial compensation rather than restoring the environment so farming and fishing are possible once more, so is working hard to engage with communities to get involved.

Read her amazing story here -

This article is an excellent update to your Nigeria environmental damage case study and a fabulous example of incredible people putting themselves at risk to save the environment.

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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