Environmental disasters have serious consequences, both for the environment and the people who are impacted
by the disaster. The goal of this project is to look at pervious environmental disasters (all man-made), and see
how the disaster shaped the economy and environment of the area affected.
You will be responsible for writing a 3-5 page paper on this disaster of your choosing. Suggested topics are
below, but feel free to suggest a topic that is not on the list. This project will have several checkpoints, include a
topic proposal, a potential source list, a rough draft, and a final draft.
Your project should include answers to the following questions:
What was the environmental disaster, and how and where did it happen?
What was the initial impact to the surrounding area?
What was done to limit the impact?
What was done to clean up the area (if any)?
Who was impacted by the disaster?
What were the economic consequences?
What were the environmental consequences?
What were the social consequences?
What is the status of the impacted area today?
The available topics include, but are not limited to:
The Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill, Alaska
Chernobyl disaster, Russia
Bhopal disaster, India
The Dust Bowl, 1930’s USA
Kingston Fossil Plant Coal slurry spill, Tennessee
Sidoarjo mud flow, Indonesia
2006 Southeast Asian haze
2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste dump
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Minamata disease, Japan
San Sebastian, Miguel, and Anna (206) characterized oil pollution in Ecuador as “one of the largest environmental disasters in history. The oil emissions affected food, fishery, bathing, drinking water supplies and soil used in agriculture by people and also the pollution supposedly caused a sharp increase in serious illnesses among the population of parts of the State of Sucumbíos in Ecuador. This all began after large fields of oil were discovered in the 1960s near the city of Nueva Loja in the province of Sucumbíos.
Many oil drilling companies in the country are facing various allegations of illegal dumping of harmful waste in the rivers and forest areas which has caused some locals their lives and their means of livelihood. According to Romero, Simon, and Clifford, (13), established that Texaco Oil Company was shut down in 1990 after the company was faulted for dumping its waste in the forest from 1972 when it began its operations to 1990, the company was later bought by Chevron Company who has also been accused severally of frequent contamination of the Amazon and was recently fined $ 9 billion by an Ecuador court.
Initial Impact on the Surrounding Area
The reckless oil dumping has had a lot of negative impacts on the health of the people living around the area and the general environment. According to Amnesty International USA (27), Texaco Company had dumped over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste directly to the river where many people used the river as a water source for their daily activities which led to various health complications among them. The oil production also destroyed a pristine rainforest environment by contaminating the water, soil, and air in the region. The soil became so full of chemicals that it became unproductive agriculturally and the forest in the region started drying up which is a crucial environmental crisis. The production also created a lot of harmful gasses that were released in the air hence causing a lot of air pollution, not only did the water pollution affect the people living in the area it also affected maritime species that lived in water and might have led to the extinction of some species.
Actions Taken to Limit the Impact
Despite the massive damage created by these oil firms very little affirmative action has been taken to stop the damage since until today some companies still face pollution allegations by various human rights activists in the country. However, some actions have been taken by the Ecuador government to reduce the damage caused by the oil companies; for example, Texaco Company was shut down in 1990 and was forced to take part in the cleaning operation of the forest.
The government initiated a cleaning operation in the forests which would reduce the amount of oil pollution in the forest. The government also makes continuous follow-ups on the pollution cases by major oil companies; for example, the chevron oil company was fine $9 billion for pollution despite the company’s allegations that it was an unfair ruling since they did not pollute the forest as explained by Johnsonet al (134). This will initiate constructive actions among the oil companies to do better and avoid such fines in the future.
Actions taken to clean up the Area
In 1990 the government shut down the Texaco Company and initiated a cleanup program that the company was forced to participate in. The operation led to an improvement in the area with most of it having been cleaned up. The government also constantly inspects the area and the dumping sites of all oil companies in the area; this ensures that there is no illegal dumping of waste in the forest.
People impacted by the Disaster
People living around the region where oil was discovered were the most affected since the oil discovery tampered with natural resources in the area that they used in their daily activities. After the pollution, many people started having red stains on their skins whereas others were severely vomiting and fainting. Some young children also died after drinking the water due to the extensive amount of chemicals in the water. The water contamination also led to the increase in the number of cancer cases among the locals, miscarriages, birth defects and other many ailments that led to the deterioration of health in the people living around the region as indicated by Sigal and Maia Eliscovich, (13).
Econ/ Environ/ Social Consequences of the Disaster
According to Edwards et al., (87), the pollution led to the damage of various natural resources in the area, the soil was rendered unproductive and the place could not be used for any more agricultural production. The situation adversely affected the country’s economy since the state made its own agricultural productions before the pollution. Many people left the region in search of better living conditions, this distracted the social living of the people in the region since they had to separate and move to new areas. The environment was the most affected since the water was contaminated making it hard for species in the water to survive, the soil was destroyed which made it difficult for trees and crops to grow. Also, the air was affected by the release of toxic air in space by the oil production companies which increased the amount of carbon in the air.
Status of the impacted area today
The area still has a lot of polluted portions but much work has been done and the polluted area is not as big as the initial area between 1972 -2002. Many companies are still facing allegations of continuous pollution of the area and the government has vowed to deal with all major pollutants of the environment. The situation in the area is slowly going back to normal but it will require a lot of time due to the amount of damage that had been caused in the region.
Actions that could have been done better
The government could have introduced very strict policies and laws that would guide oil drilling in the country; this would create a positive culture among oil companies to observe environmental conservations in their production. The government could also have initiated a proper cleanup process that would properly clean the whole area before another oil company is licensed to run in the country.
Environmental disasters are epidemics that have affected a lot of countries globally, oil drilling and emissions are among the highest causes of environmental pollution. There is a need to create awareness on the importance of conserving the environment and the various ways this will benefit individual countries and the world at large. Affirmative action needs to be taken against companies and people who cause pollution to the environment in order to reduce the level of pollution that takes place daily.
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