Amnesty International Inaugurates Platform to Track Oil Spills in N’Delta

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Amnesty International has launched ‘Decode Oil Spills Project,’ a revolutionary crowd-sourcing platform that will engage thousands of digital volunteers to help the human rights watchdog ensure justice for communities devastated by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

According to a statement issued Monday by Amnesty International, its supporters from all over the world can take part in the Decode Oil Spills project, which aims to hold oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to account for the environmental damage they have caused in the region.

The statement added that by analysing data about oil spills, decoders will help to expose false claims by oil companies, and better empower local communities to demand proper clean up and compensation.

“The Niger Delta is one of the most polluted places on earth. For far too long wealthy oil companies have evaded justice for the utter devastation they have caused to the land and water of the Delta, and to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in the region. Shell has relied on demonstrably false claims to avoid accountability, but with the help of digital activists from around the world we are determined to uncover the truth,” said Amnesty International’s Senior Innovations Campaigner, Milena Marin.

“The Decode Oil Spills project means anybody with a mobile phone or laptop can contribute to vital research into human rights abuses, and marks a new chapter in the way people can hold companies to account,” Milena added.
Amnesty noted that hundreds of oil spills occur in the Niger Delta every year and they are rarely cleaned up properly.
According to the group, decades of pollution linked to the oil industry have destroyed people’s livelihoods, undermined their rights to clean water and food, and put their health at serious risk.

“There have been more than 1,700 oil spills from Shell operations in the Niger Delta since 2007. The Italian oil company ENI has smaller operations in the region than Shell but has reported even more spills – in excess of 3,000 since 2007. There is a vast amount of publicly available data on Nigerian oil spills dating back to 2011 – too much for Amnesty researchers to analyse alone. Much of this information is only available in scanned, hand written documents, making it impossible to extract information at scale,” the group explained.

The group accused Shell of making false statements relating to spills; “for example, claiming that they were caused by oil thieves or pipeline saboteurs when they were in fact due to corroded pipes, so they can pay less compensation, or avoid cleaning up the pollution.”

“This is where decoders come in. Amnesty International is inviting digital volunteers to help determine the cause and location of oil spills by analyzing photos and documents using their smartphone, tablet or laptop, so that the organisation can help bring the companies responsible to account. On average decoders will be required to spend under one minute per task. With the Decoders platform Amnesty has started building a community of tens of thousands of digital activists who are able to work with large volumes of “messy” information and transform it into structured evidence of human rights violations,” the group said.

The statement added that since the launch of the Decoders platform in June 2016, the organisation has successfully completed three projects mobilising 45,000 digital volunteers from 150 countries to support its research.