Amnesty International Launches New Technology-Driven Campaign Tool to Mobilize Action to Stop Harmful Gas Flaring in Nigeria

Press Release
March 18, 2011

Amnesty International Launches New Technology-Driven Campaign Tool to Mobilize Action to Stop Harmful Gas Flaring in Nigeria

Eyes on Nigeria Website Offers Comprehensive View of Most Pressing Human Rights Challenges Facing Nigeria

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, 917-815-5964 (mobile), strimel@aisua.org

(San Francisco) – As more than 1,000 activists gathered in San Francisco Friday to mark 50 years of Amnesty International’s human rights activism, the organization’s U.S. section launched the latest project in its pioneering campaign employing satellite and geo-spatial technologies to expose and fight rights abuses.

Eyes on Nigeria (http://www.eyesonnigeria.org) is the newest project to emerge from the organization’s groundbreaking Science for Human Rights Program, which employs new monitoring tools and technologies to expose and visualize human rights abuses and situations in which human rights are at risk throughout Nigeria, including through active monitoring of harmful gas flaring in the Niger Delta region.

 For many years, residents of the Niger Delta have complained that gas flares seriously damage their quality of life and pose a risk to their health, yet to Amnesty’s knowledge, neither the government nor the oil companies have carried out any specific study to look at health and flaring.
The goal of Eyes on Nigeria is to mobilize 3 million activists worldwide to take action targeting the Nigerian government and oil companies to shut down the  estimated 75 unchecked gas flares, which for decades have been a cause for concern regarding the health of the population and the environment overall in the Niger Delta.

Amnesty International chapters and individuals worldwide will be able to “adopt” individual gas flares, monitor them via the Eyes on Nigeria site and take action to stop them, just as activists have adopted the cases of prisoners of conscience to gain their freedom.

”The Eyes on Nigeria project is a comprehensive view of the most pressing human rights issues facing the people of Nigeria,” said Dr. Scott Edwards, director, Science for Human Rights program.  “We hope that people around the world will be inspired by what they learn through this new project to act in concert with the Nigerian people to demand basic human dignity”

The launch will allow activists worldwide to take action and begin the “Countdown to Flares Out.”
Technical assistance was provided by the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a nonprofit, nonpartisan scientific organization.
The Eyes on Nigeria project locates and maps each gas flare occurring in the region and estimates the impact on surrounding communities of the high temperatures, fumes, and elevated sound levels caused by the flares.

“We coupled on-the-ground measurements of a single flare with the daily satellite sensor data for all flares in the region to determine the increased air temperatures affecting inhabitants and agricultural production within two kilometers of the flares,” said Susan Wolfinbarger, senior program associate at AAAS. “The research by AAAS determined that 41 flares were active in the Delta at the end of 2010.”
Nigeria has prohibited gas flaring since 1984, according to Amnesty International’s groundbreaking 2009 report, Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta. 1.  When oil is pumped out of the ground, the gas produced is separated and, in Nigeria, most of it is burnt as waste in massive flares. This practice has been going on for almost five decades. The burning of this “associated gas” has long been acknowledged as environmentally damaging.  More recently, communities and NGOs have raised concerns about the impact of gas flaring on human health.

Eyes on Nigeria continues Amnesty International’s work using advanced tools and technologies to document difficult or intractable human rights crises, such as those occurring in Sudan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries.

Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary Annual General Meeting includes a roster of noted human rights defenders who have shown enormous bravery and commitment on a wide range of human rights issues. The three-day event is open to the public, but registration is required.

1.    Unless a ministerial consent has been issued

Amnesty International -- today the largest grassroots human rights organization in the world with nearly 3 million members worldwide -- has helped win the freedom of tens of thousands of individuals jailed for expressing beliefs or defending basic rights, shut down torture chambers, halted executions, and established laws and treaties to protect the freedom and dignity of people around the world -- and in the United States. Amnesty International was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.
 
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