Governors representing the Greater Upper Nile Region have called for the review of oil contracts that were signed with oil companies before the independence of South Sudan.
They say some of the agreements signed under the Sudanese government have not factored in the environment, and the welfare of the ordinary South Sudanese living around the oil fields.
The governors were speaking at the week-long Greater Upper Nile regional conference on the National Dialogue in Juba.
In 2016, some residents living near the oil fields in Paloch complained of environmental pollution as a result of oil production.
There have been reports of disease outbreak related to environmental pollution, with stillbirths and deformed newborns as symptoms of the conditions.
A research conducted by a German human rights group revealed that the water in the oil areas is not safe for human consumption due to contamination by crude oil.
Delegates of the Upper Nile states gathered in Juba over the week to submit their views on the National Dialogue peace process.
“We must put new measures and monitor the operation of oil activities. We as a nation have to put the lives of our citizens in to consideration,” said Jonglei state governor, Philip Aguer, who spoke on behalf of the other governors.
The statement by the governors said agreements guiding the oil companies operations also needs to be reviewed to ensure no one dies from pollution in the areas near the oil fields.
“The lives of our people matter more than the wealth we get from the oil and other minerals that we have underground,” the statement read.
Earlier, local and international researchers called on the government to facilitate a quantitative environmental and social audit to determine whether rules were followed during production.
They say the audit will be clear on who is responsible for pollution damages, adding that the affected people should be resettled far from the production sites, and be compensated fully.
“We need to protect our people. It is better that people die poor but clean than having wealth that reduces the life span of our people,” Aguer said.
An investigation by Eye Radio late last year revealed stories of women who have had stillbirths and deformed children, and of victims of the pollution who have been left with health complications such as; disappearance of voice, skin rashes, eye disease, and increased number of sudden death around Heglig oil field.
The South Sudan constitution states that “any expropriation of land for the purposes of petroleum activities should be in the public interest and in consideration for prompt full and just compensation monetarily or otherwise.”
But the oil companies have allegedly been slow at deploying new technologies to clean up the environment during and after production.
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