South Sudan: The Impacts of Oil Activities on Communities Inside Oil Operation Zones

Posted: September 5, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Economy, Health, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Ater Yuot Riak (PhD), Juba, South Sudan


Wednesday, September 5, 2018 (PW) — The American Oil Company Chevron discovered the oil in Southern Sudan at the end of 1970s and tried to utilize it. However, in 1984 the company stopped its activities because of the war that stared in 1983 between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M). During fighting, the government of Sudan used not to consult with local communities when oil companies want to work in their villages. After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which was signed in 2005, these practices had stopped and communities are consulted when their land is to be used by the oil companies.

After independence in 2011, South Sudan holds more than 75% of the total oil reserves of the previous Sudan. New consortia (operating companies) were formed for oil production and further exploration. South Sudan created Nile Petroleum Corporation (NILEPET) to replace Sudan Petroleum Corporation (SUDAPET) in consortia. With Dar Petroleum Operating Company (DPOC) operating in Northern Upper Nile State, Sudd Petroleum Operating Company (SPOC) and Greater Pioneer Operating Company (GPOC) are operating in Ruweng State and Northern Liech State respectively.

Oil fields facilities were built in the areas of Melut, Pariang and Tharjath. These facilities include, rigs, pipelines, roads, oil base camps (OBC), wells, electrical power lines, power plant, oil manifold gatherings (OGM), airports, etc. All these facilities were built on communities’ lands as a result they were forced to leave their lands and villages to oil companies. Usually, communities who lost their lands and villages relocate to nearby villages. In new residents, they are not allowed to own a land but only build houses or cultivate. Some communities relocate to nearby towns where they experience difficulties in coping with the urban life that includes owning a plot, schools for children in addition to the daily live expenses.

Communities living inside oil operation zones are faced by the impacts and challenges of oil activities such as impact on environment, loss of lands or villages. Since oil exploration still active, many villages might be lost to oil companies as well. Thus, the communities inside oil operation zones should have been compensated and benefited as a result of oil discovery and activities in their lands.

The most challenge of all is the open disposal of the production water and dumping yards. As a result, the community members settling inside operation zones complain of premature births and frequent rate of abortion among the pregnant women, skin rushes, nausea and headaches with no clear reasons. However, these complains need to be confirmed by intensive health investigation in their areas.

Currently, the main complaints from the communities inside oil operation zones, relate to compensation for the loss of lands that is been used by the oil industry as a result of its expansion. Compensation is only done when new project is been executed such as new well construction and flow line and then compensation is only paid to affected villages. However, there is no compensation for the road constructed, electricity power lines and crude pipelines from oil fields inside South Sudan trough Sudan to Port Sudan. Those facilities have the major share in encroachment to community lands and which were built during war.

The affected village reports any oil activity on their piece of land to Oil Company, which in turn reports the issue to a Committee at County level. This committee then follows the process till the amount is paid to the County Committee.

With the expansion of the oil activities, the rate of lands lost to oil companies and environmental impacts have already become a daily debate topic. Furthermore, loss of villages and agriculture lands of the communities are seriously impacting negatively on their livelihood. For instance, primary and secondary schools, hospitals and clinics and water plants projects were executed. However, these projects represent a very small portion of benefits communities should have received since oil exploitation started by 1993.

Based on the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan, 2011 and Petroleum Act 2012, mandate the government of South Sudan and all partners involved in the oil business to protect the right of communities whose lands is used by oil companies, labors and the environment.  Constitution gives the right as well of peaceful union of workers and thus, the WORKERS’ Trade Union of Petroleum and Mining was formed in October 2017. The main objective of the union is to talk on behave of workers’ rights of petroleum and orient them to claim their rights based on the constitution.

The impacts of oil activities on communities inside oil operation zones need to be addressed carefully. Relocation plan would have reduce the impacts mainly on human and environment. New villages with full services need to be built to relocate communities who are still residing inside oil operation zones and who lost their lands to outside oil operation zones. Therefore, there should be a clear compensation mechanism by the government at national and county level with cooperation of oil operating companies.

Development projects for oil communities to gain full benefits of oil discovery in their areas should be the top priority of the government of the Republic of South Sudan (ministry of petroleum, ministry of environment and ministry of labor). This contributes into sustainable operation of the oil and sustainable human development in the oil operation areas and indeed in the whole of South Sudan.

You can reach Dr. Ater Yuot Riak, (Ph.D.) via his email address: Ater Yuot Riak <>

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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