Lobby opposes oil exploration in Northern Kenya

July 20, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, July 20 – A pastoralist’s lobby group has raised alarm over the rising number of cancer cases in Chalbi District following the dumping of chemicals in the area by oil explorers.

Pastoralists Community Development Organization chief executive Ali Gorai on Sunday said around 1, 000 new cases are reported monthly in the area due to what residents suspect could be nuclear radiation.

“People have been exposed to dangerous chemical. These cases were not there before oil exploration took place, he said.

Gorai said they are concerned that with a new firm taking over the exploration process most of highly marginalised minority group numbering around 60,000 people are faced with extinction.

He is now calling on the Prime Minister to constitute a cabinet committee to scrutinise the awarding of a contract to Swedish firm to explore oil in the area.

The pastoralists lobby group wants a committee involving the ministries of Northern Kenya Development and Arid Lands, Energy, Livestock Development, Environment and Constitutional Affairs to be constituted.

“We expect him to mobilise the relevant ministries in order to address the problem,” he said.

Gorai said the firm has been surveying the district and is expected to start operations next month despite the lack of an environmental impact assessment.

He said they have sought the assistance of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to intervene and force the government to protect their pastoral lands.

He said: “In light of the potential devastating consequences of this oil exploration venture on the livelihood of one of the Kenya minority ethnic group, we seek intervention of the UN that deals with indigenous minority rights.”

The group is due to meet the Swedish embassy officials on Wednesday to explain the communities concerns about the project but said the US embassy have not been responding to the organisation’s request for an appointment.



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