Expansion in oil industry threatens clean waters

Pollution from fossil fuels has been identified as one of the biggest threats to the Arctic Barents Sea, according to a report from environmental officials in Norway this week.

Rated second only to over-fishing problems, a report from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) revealed that recent expansion within the oil and gas industries operating in the area poses a serious risk to the region.

According to UNEP’s executive director, Klaus Toepfer, at the report’s launch in Norway: “The increased exploration activities for petroleum resources in the Barents Sea, the offshore developments and the shipping of oil and gas along the coasts represent significant potential threats to this vulnerable arctic ecosystem.”

The vast oil and gas reserves on Russia’s Arctic shelf will cause an increase in oil transport to 40 million tonnes by the end of the year 2020, according to Mr Toepfer, which will in turn increase the pressure on the Northern Sea route by six times.

As a consequence of this, the number of oil spills and accidents in the region is predicted to increase considerably, and the UN report proposes that measures be put in place to reduce the risk of potential emergencies and such accidents.

The Barents Sea is cleaner than most other European seas and the increasing numbers of pollution incidents do not present an immediate risk to human health or the local ecosystem, but the report suggests that action should be taken to avoid such problems from occurring.

By Jane Kettle

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