Bellamy urged to pull out of Shell study

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Pressure was mounting on David Bellamy last night to pull out of an environmental study, sponsored by Shell, into oil pollution in the Niger Delta.

The delta and the area known as Ogoniland have been extensively damaged by oil spills and gas flares from Shell's and other Western oil companies' operations. The Independent on Sunday also revealed yesterday that Shell's oil operations in the area are the biggest single cause of global warming.

The figures, compiled by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), are expected to further tarnish Shell's battered image. The organisation has been lobbying Shell behind the scenes for many years at the request of concerned Nigerian scientists but decided to go public with the figures over the weekend.

Gas flaring in the Niger delta emits 34 million tons of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, per year and the oil fields emit a further 12 million tons of methane, which is up to 35 times more potent.

In comparison, fuel burning in Britain's homes emits 23 million tons of carbon dioxide and 46,000 tons of methane per year.

To try to cut down on the flaring, Shell is building a pounds 2.5bn plant to liquefy the gas so it can be transported out of the area and used as a fuel. They also commissioned a committee to investigate oil related damage in the Niger delta.

David Bellamy's Conservation Foundation is serving on the committee. Conservation groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Body Shop claim that Shell is "using" the internationally renowned conservationist to add credence to the pounds 3m study. Instead, the groups want an independent study of the area's environmental problems.

Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, warned that Dr Bellamy, while working in good faith, risked becoming involved in a "quagmire of dirty politics and becoming contaminated by the institutions that are causing the problems".

"There's a real danger that the Conservation Foundation would end up being used by Shell and the Nigerian Government. The political situation is so complex and the vested interests have so much to lose by changing their policies that it's very unlikely that they [the Foundation] will be able to find a practical way forward."

Jonathon Porritt, the environmental campaigner, said the situation reflected "the paradox faced by many environmental campaigners", adding: "David seeks the same outcome as us."