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Aug 28, 2016

'Gas, oil extraction will not cause deaths'

AS the government embarks on gas extraction, Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) has assured the public that all safety measures are seriously observed in the exploration and extraction of gas and oil across the country.
The TPDC Director of Exploration and Development, Mr Kelvin Komba, said yesterday that the body believes in zero fatality in both gas and oil extraction.
“TPDC is very serious on health, safety and environment. We cannot allow any company or any process to take place without considering such key issues.They are everything to us,” he said.
He added that TPDC makes sure all exploration companies and its officials adhere to the Environment Management Act, 2004. “TPDC conducts its activities by taking into account the Environment Management Act, 2004.
Whoever violates the law faces legal action immediately,” he said.
He said his office is looking forward to asking the Ministry for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to conduct studies and give results regarding claims that fishermen no longer get enough fish along areas where gas projects are located.
"We would like to ask the ministry concerned through the fisheries sector to conduct a special study on the availability of fish.
However, what I understand is that gas extraction activities are taking place about 100 kilometres offshore where most of our fishermen do not reach," he noted.
TPDC Communication Manager, Ms Maria Msellemu, said her office has been conducting awareness trainings to villagers in the southern regions.
According to Ms Msellemu, TPDC offers learning materials prepared in simple language.
The upshot is to enable everybody to understand issues regarding gas exploration, extraction, its importance to the country’s economy, measures to be taken during extraction and other things of such nature. "We are doing all these because we value safety, health and environment.
Our focus now is in the Southern regions, but we are also eying the Northern Lake Zone regions," she explained. She added that TPDC also trains journalists to ensure they manage to publish analytical reports with enough knowledge on gas and oil related matters.
TPDC has also formed at least 32 oil and gas clubs in various secondary schools. "We have formed 32 oil and gas clubs at different secondary schools in the southern regions. In Lindi for example, we have a total of 15 clubs and 17 clubs are in Mtwara," noted Ms Msellemu.
TPDC public relations officer, Mr Malik Munisi, said the body uses brochures, seminars and public rallies to pass information to the public regarding gas and oil projects in the southern regions.
"Citizens have been informed on the measures to be taken in case of any problem. We have supplied them with a hotline phone number so that they can make free calls whenever they smell or see anything unusual.
We have a 24-hour emergency response unit which responds to calls and addresses problems as soon as possible," he said. Earlier, experts and environmental activists urged the government and its regulatory bodies to ensure pre-cautions and safety measures are given top priority to avoid safety hazards, which may result from improper gas extraction activities.
According to experts, if not well handled, gas extraction could lead to global warming, air, water and land pollution as well as earthquakes in some areas, which is dangerous to human beings and nature generally.
Some areas where drilling occurs have experienced increases in concentrations of hazardous air pollution, which results in adverse health outcomes, including respiratory symptoms, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Some experts who spoke to the ‘Sunday News’ urged the government through its regulatory bodies to make sure safety measures are considered so as to protect Tanzanians and other living organisms life as well as the environment.
Dr Abubakar Salama from the department of chemical and mining of the College of Engineering and Technology (CoET) of the University of Dar es Salaam said unconventional gas extraction leads to water pollution.
He said the practice may pose health risks to nearby communities through contamination of drinking water sources with hazardous chemicals used in drilling the wellbore, hydraulically fracturing the well, processing and refining the oil or gas or disposing of wastewater.
Dr Salama said during the drilling process, there is a possibility for leakage of dangerous gas from pipes. “When gas leaks, it reduces the amount of oxygen and thus human beings in the vicinity can get lung and heart related diseases as well as cancer,” he said.
He added that gas extraction also may affect ecosystem. He said gas extraction leads to bush clearing and erosions, which harm local ecosystem.
According to Dr Salama, such exercises cause segmentation that also leads to lower water level and thus animals, insects and other organisms escape away during the clearing processes. Moreover, human beings are forced to get water from deep wells.
“Apart from using water from deep wells, still there is a danger of being contaminated with chemicals in case pipes are leaking.
This could affect human being’s health and probably kill other living organisms including fish,” said Dr Salama. One major cause of gas contamination is improperly constructed or failing wells that allow gas to leak from the well into groundwater.
On earthquake, Dr Salama said earthquake can happen in areas with hydraulic fracturing that is linked to low-magnitude.
On ileum gas, the expert said improper extraction of ileum gas can cause dizziness, fatigue, headache, suffocation and other problems of such nature. He said its liquid could lead to skin complications.
Dr Salama advised the government to move people’s residences to at least one kilometre from the processing site.
“The government must compensate people and move them from all project areas, it is very dangerous for them to continue staying there,” he said.

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