By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
September 30, 2013 (BENTIU) - The Unity state government is allowing residents to be removed from land around an oil field in Rubkotna county owned by the Greater Pioneer Operating Company during next year’s dry season, despite objections from the community affected.
- An oil field in South Sudan’s Unity State. (Photo: UN / Tim McKulka)
Franco Duoth Diu, the secretary general of the Unity state government, said on Monday that the removal residents from the area was for their own safety. The relocation is to prevent chemicals used at the oil field negatively affecting the health of people in the area, especially children, he said.
Beny Ngor Chol, who manages the company’s field base, says the Greater Pioneer Operating Company is working to relocate area residents in the coming dry season to safer places, adding that it is too risky for people to live near the oil field.
"There are number of factors that we think people should not live nearer to the oil production facilities and that mean our safety department alongside with our community development working in hand work with local authority and government and it is urgent to make sure we educate the population around the oil area so that for possible displacement to the safe area”, said Chol.
The Greater Pioneer Operating Company will reimburse all those who are forced to relocate, he said, without outlining how much this would be or how the compensation would be decided.
John Chieng Machar one of the affected residents said that the say responsibility to provide a safe environment and prevent the surroundings of the becoming polluted.
The company must provide roads, houses and essential services, such as an electricity and water supply before the relocation takes place, he said.
Angelina Nyagai Bath, another resident of the affected area, says that so far the community has not benefited from the oil that is pumped out of the state. Current oil production stands at 30,000 barrels per day, according to a recent report by the Reuters news agency, as landlocked South Sudan resumes its exports through Sudan after a long running dispute.
Before displacing people, Bath asked the company to build better schools, hospitals, and roads, as well as providing clean water.
"The oil companies [have created] a lot of disadvantage for people life, as the chemical they use is always dangerous for our fertility and many other things and we never see any good done by them”, said Bath.
The issue is particularly emotive in Unity state as thousands were forced from their oil-rich land by the Sudanese army and their militias to during the two-decade civil war that resulted in South Sudan’s independence two years ago.