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Barbados Advocate: Powerful ally signs on to help farmers in Shell fight

Tuesday, Feb 06 2007  

Web Posted – Mon Feb 05 2007
By Shawn Cumberbatch

SHELL has a bigger fight on its hands.

As the multi-national oil company reports a whopping US$25.4 billion in profits for 2006, the Southern Farmers Association, of about 30 Gibbons Boggs, Christ Church farmers, have found a major international ally in their 12-year quest for millions of dollars in compensation.

Shell Accountability Coalition (SAC), a Holland-based network of environmental, human rights and community groups, has published a new report and launched a major advertising and lobbying campaign to coincide with Shell’s February 1 announcement of a 21 per cent increase in profits.

In the campaign, which includes the publishing of full page ads in leading Dutch and British newspapers, the SAC called on the company to “Use Your Profit to Clean Up Your Mess” in Barbados, the Netherlands, Russia, Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Netherlands Antilles, Philippines, United States, and Brazil.

Shell, which last week announced a major investigation into the aviation pipeline while speaking of continued negotiations with the farmers lawyers, is now being urged to carry out a $500 000 independent study on environmental conditions, as suggested by Barbados Agricultural Society CEO, James Paul, who called on Shell to clean up and prevent contamination, in addition to compensating farmers.

Shell needs to use any and all scientific methods available to contain the spill to keep from further contaminating the islands land, beaches and invaluable coral reefs, as well as to remove the oil from the water table. Because Shell has not studied the extent of the spill and made such information available to the public, it is difficult to estimate the cost of the full clean-up. A 400,000 gallon spill in Avila Beach, California cost the oil giant $100 million to clean up, the report said.

Shell needs to offer the farmers a reasonable level of compensation for the years of lost crops and revenue. Thirty farmers need to be compensated for the 12 years. The Southern Farmers Association currently has an agronomist working on exact figures to use in future negotiations, it added.

According to the report, which relied on information from the farmers themselves, The pipeline first burst in 1995 and then again in 2003 with several small leaks in between. It is estimated that 300 000 gallons of jet fuel has leaked from the pipeline into the land and groundwater.

It noted a survey of the Southern Farmers Association, which stated that farmers have been losing crops and revenue for numerous years to the presence of hydrocarbons in the irrigated water.

Currently the cumulative contamination has resulted in the closure of five water wells. To date, the pipeline has had 17 fractures, experienced two major bursts and several smaller bursts between 1995 and 2003, leaking as much as 300 000 gallons of aviation fuel into the farmlands, the water table and ultimately into farmers water wells, the report said.

To date Shell has offered the farmers only $2 million to be divided among 30 farmers who suffered 12 years of contamination on 186 acres of land, it added.

It also said some farmers have had to seek employment in other areas outside of farming and it is estimated that the crisis has forced at least 17 farmers out of business, leading to the abandonment of what was once some of the most fertile and productive farmland in Barbados.

The inability to make a consistent income has given the remaining farmers a bad credit rating with lending agencies and the farmers have found it difficult to make a living and provide for their families. Today many farmlands adjacent to the pipeline have been abandoned, the report said.

Nnimmo Bassey, a representative of Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria, said now was the time for Shell to show readiness for Corporate Social Accountability.

With the money it has earned in 2006, the oil company could address some of the many environmental and health problems which accompany its projects. In this report, local communities and environmental groups describe the problems that Shell causes in and around their communities and they offer a number of solutions to address these problems, he said. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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