The past century, has clearly shown us that there is more to life than possessing material goods and having reliable services. The valuable pleasure derived from drinking clean adequate water, breathing free and fresh air and enjoyment of nature’s splendorous beauty provides the human species with a costless sustainability of life and must not be tampered with. Furthermore, loss of these life sustaining factors will automatically lead to direct or indirect life threatening conditions. Therefore there is dear need of appreciating our natural resources & environment and there should be well articulated efforts driven towards conserving and using of these resources so as to have a significant sustainable use of these resources.
Oil is one of the greatest natural resource that nature has provided us with. It consists of hydrogen and carbon. The world largest oil sources are found in the Middle East states such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia Iran and so on. On acknowledging this factor many companies and even the World Bank have heavily invested in the oil tapping process of fossil fuel. The heavy extraction of oil in the Middle East has caused direct and indirect impacts to the environment, human health and our natural resources (Common and Stagl, 2005).
Land and Soil Destruction
Fossil fuel extraction projects pose a big threat to biodiversity and also adulterate the pristine lands. The frequent toxic spillages and fuel flares all automatically destroy the local arable and non arable which might also impact on human health and the rest of the ecologic facets. These effects might start on a simple local level scale and can easily emerge to a global level if there is no control implemented. Fossil fuel extraction and usage projects have been the major cause of loss of arable land fit for farming in most parts of Middle East countries it has also destroyed large tracks of land due to the holes and debris left from the mining activities (Jim, 2006).
In order to understand what oil can do to the land it is important to review what happened during the great Gulf war. This war was dominated by great oil a spill which was continuous from august in the year 1990 to February in the year 1991 and about two hundred and forty million gallons of fossil fuel was spilled into the Persian and Arabian Gulfs and also into the Kuwait desert. This was one of the largest ever oil spill in the history of the world (Purvis, 1999). 700 squire kilometers of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait coastline were badly adulterated by the massive spill as well as an area almost forty nine square kilometers of Kuwait’s Desert suffered the same plight (Al- Hasan et al., 1994).
These spills were as a result of uncouth manmade and deliberate acts by the Iraqi military during their attack on Kuwait. Crude oil was dumped into these region and oil processes, refinery facilities and storage facilities were completely torched. The oil leaking from these facilities formed oil lakes which was as deep as two meters. Some of the oil wells were set ablaze which led to both land and air deposition of partially burnt oil substances and other associated non-combusted substances of the fires, all this substances released polluted quit a large area. So much land became polluted and so much loss of land productivity was also lost. Along with these tragic events the general oil resources were very much degraded because of the long exposure to atmosphere, this caused this resource to lose its volatility and undergo chemical changes which makes it to be of low quality and profitability (Al-Hashash et al., 1998).
When oil is burns CO2 gas and other substances are produced as by –products, carbon dioxide has an accumulative effect in the air and traps large a mount of heat in the atmosphere. Oil mining process and burning of oil are the main sources carbon dioxide gas production in the Middle East. Burning of oil in the Middle East for last century has result in the increase in production of carbon dioxide gas due to increase in population and Economic growth, and hence accounts for not less than 30% increase of accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. In addition increase in NO and methane gases in the air are caused by oil burning (Brendow, 2003).
The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause the rise in atmospheric heat and hence leading to global warming, which has negative impact to the global environment, due to warming of the earth planet, this effect affect the Costal areas negatively by causing the rise in sea level temperatures causing glaciers to melt and hence may result in inundation of river deltas and wetlands. These negative impacts may result in climate change causing draughts. In contrary Global warming effects have not attracted much concentration in international community views in the Middle East. The international community focuses much more on spectacular on negative impacts that are already stirring in regions that are closer to the North Pole and no or less attention on the slight changes in other regions of the of the globe.
Burning of oil do not cause production of NOX, CO2 and methane gases a lone but also sulfur gases may present in small amounts, oxygen combines with sulfur in the atmosphere to produce SO2 which combine with water to produce acid rain. On the other hand nitrogen which present in the atmosphere combine with oxygen at very high temperatures to generate nitrogen oxide which in presence of water produce nitric acid that result also in acid rain (Common and Stagl, 2005).
When it rains the, the acid water infiltrates in the ground, causing the change in the materials of the soil composition that may result in acidic soils. furthermore this acid rain have negative impacts to the fresh water fish if this waters gate the way to rives ,oceans and lakes. Recent researches carried out in the Middle East waters have shown that the acidic rainfalls have caused the reduction of fresh water fish in waters and hence affecting the economy in directly. In addition the soil PH haven been affected by the acidic rain, hence having negative impact to plants growth and forest, because this rains are utilized by plants for growth and development. The acid rain has contributed decrease in plants yields; hence indirectly cause the rise in cost of food produce and products. In the Middle East most of the food products are imported from other countries costing the middle Eat to spend a lot of money in imputing the food products.
Burning and combustion of oil result in the production of several gases that pollute the environment, specifically the air in the Middle East. For instance: carbon monoxide which is a by- product of incomplete burning of fossils fuel containing carbon. Other air pollutants are hydrocarbons, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides. These air pollutants are also the cause of acidic rain which is the major pollutants of water resource, for instance nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides (Jim, 2006).
Sulfur gases are generated by the burning compounds containing sulfur compounds. Sulfur gases in presence of water combine to form sulfuric acid which causes acid rain (Kaman, and Bradley, 2003). Nitrogen gases combine with oxygen to form nitrogen which in presence of water results in the formation of nitric acids that form part of acidic rain and snow. The acid rain get the way into water resources resulting in water pollution that affect the living organisms found in water.
The frequent Processing, transport and other utilities from oil can lead to water pollution. Oil spillages, for example, have been reported in the Middle East especially during the Gulf war. The spills leave the water resources and their surrounding areas such as the shores to become life un-supporting for quit some time. These spills have always led to loss of animal and plant life. The spills also contribute to introduction of toxic substances into the water ways such as sulfur compound and so on (Common and Stagl, 2005).
The spills can be caused by oil ship wreck, water washes through the extraction mines, storm water wash from oil handling facilities and so many more sources. When the toxic substances are introduced to the water ways they might associate and react with other compounds in the water to form very hazardous compounds which mighty have quit long lasting negative effects to fresh water and marine ecosystem (Kahru, 2006).
Effects of Human exposure to oil or its products
Human exposure to oil is an environmental problem. When humans become exposed to oil or its products they can develop health related conditions. When the exposure is through the skin probably an incident which is quit common among workers in oil processing firms, the individual might contract dermal infections which range from severe to chronic health effects such as burns, allergies, skin ulceration and cancer (Common and Stagl, 2005).
When the exposure is through breathing then this might lead to respiratory conditions ranging from allergies to lung cancer. The exposure through swallowing can have acute or chronic effects to the individual; the person might die immediately or have mild upsets depending on the amount of the products swallowed. In the middle east, where oil is dealt with on a daily basis, there is a probability of many individuals be exposed in a repeated version this repeated exposure to oil and its products can lead to mutagenic infections in many individuals (Kahru, 2006).
Effects on Human rights
Since the a man who accesses his rights will have piece of his mind, then it follows that the human environment is part of what denies or offers human rights to an individual. In the Middle East for example the right to undertake fossil fuel extraction is always associated with a great degree of repression, restraint of the rights of the local peoples and gross violations of person’s rights. There have been incidences of mass population of people being forcibly removed from their land and then not given the new land according to the set agreement, this causes a vital effect on the new way of life of the people displaced.
There have also been several cases where regimes have been said to have used excess force to protect oil projects at the expense of wellbeing of the local people. These evident conflicts arising due to oil resources, accessibility to land and the right compensation packages have led to volatile social circumstances and generated armed conflict in most parts (Brendow, 2003).
All players in oil extraction and refinery services should involve themselves in investments and services which are sensitive to the improvement of local and universal people’s lives not forgetting natural resource conservation and the environment in general (Elliot, 2006). Most probably with all the global environmental instruments present, their should be proper implementation and enforcement of this instruments in order to save the middle east countries and the environment from going down the drain.
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- Kahru, A. (2006). Environmental hazard of waste streams of oil: an ecological review, Estonian academy publishers.
- Kaman, C. and Bradley, F. (2003), Atmospheric behavior and deposition flux, scientific technical Journal, 20: 429–440.
- Purvis, A. (1999). Ten largest oil spills in history. USA: Global watch publication.