Illegal oil bunkering and artisanal crude oil refining are organized environmental crimes that are driving conflict and insecurity in the Niger Delta. According to the report of an environmental impact assessment of oil exploration in Ogoniland, Rivers State, conducted by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 2011, illegal oil bunkering and artisanal refining are major causes of water and air pollution and soil contamination in the area, with harmful impacts on human health, aquatic life, and the entire ecological system.
Recently, following public outcry over the environmental impacts of artisanal oil refining, the government intensified the use of security forces to crackdown on illegal artisanal refineries and destruction of illegally refined petroleum products. This approach could be counter-productive as it could intensify environmental degradation and air pollution, and disruption of livelihoods. Moreover, since artisanal oil refining and the associated value chains are seemingly embedded in the local economy, any strategy that excludes the provision of alternative livelihoods could cause economic disruptions and occupational displacement which could intensify communal tensions and insecurity in the region.
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