German charity Sign of Hope is claiming an oil company in southern Sudan is contaminating drinking water.

The group is warning of a potential ‘ecological catastrophe’ in one of the world’s largest swamplands.

Charity workers first took samples at the site in February 2008 and this month carried out a week visit to monitor the site.

Sign of Hope’s tests revealed water, vital to the lives of an estimated 300,000 people, is either undrinkable or at best, less polluted than other areas.

Vice chairman of the group, Klaus Stieglitz, said: “In many villages around the oil facilities, locals are not able to drink the water.

“Locals who drink this kind of water can get diarrhea and the subsequent dehydration of the body, which might lead to death in those areas if left untreated.”

The White Nile Petroleum Operating Company consortium runs production in two oil fields, Mala and Thar Jath. The Malaysian company Petronas is the largest shareholder in the consortium, but Swedish, Indian, and state-owned petroleum companies also hold significant stakes.

A company spokesman said: “We are a forward looking company using innovative technology with a competent workforce, in a safe, healthy and environmentally friendly manner, contributing to the development of the nation.”

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