Nigerian judge orders end to Shell’s gas flaring

In a surprising victory for activists, a judge in Nigeria has ruled that the practice of gas flaring, wherein oil companies burn off the natural gas produced in oil drilling, violates the human rights of surrounding residents and must be halted immediately. Nigerian activists say the flaring causes respiratory illnesses, reduces crop yields, and produces greenhouse gases — more than the rest of sub-Saharan sources combined. “It’s a thing that goes on 24 hours a day, every day of every year. It causes explosions, constant noise, and great heat. Many people have never had a time of quietness or a dark night because of these flares,” said Nnimmo Bassey of Environmental Rights Action. Although Shell has promised to end the practice of continuous flaring by 2009, it immediately appealed the ruling. The judge’s decision comes just after the 10th anniversary of the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa by Nigeria’s former military dictatorship; Saro-Wiwa had led the fight against oil development by Shell, arguing that it was devastating local communities.