By GASIN Reporter
GASIN has, in the last 24 months, set up Gas Alert Systems (GASs) in 12 communities in Bayelsa and Rivers states. Gas Alert System is a system whereby a community-based groups called the Gas Monitoring Groups (GMGs) inaugurated by GASIN, trigger alerts, document and report incidents or accidents related to natural gas exploitation activities, for timely response by the operating companies and regulatory agencies.
The overall objective is to maintain a safe environment and secure livelihoods in communities located around gas facilities in case of emergencies. This system is an initiative of GASIN and is sponsored by The Dutch Embassy in Abuja, and Cordaid. The system is made up of gas-detecting, geocoded imaging and reporting gadgets and use of dedicated phone lines for information relay among stakeholders.
The information gathered by the GMGs is communicated simultaneously to the operators, the regulators and GASIN through dedicated phone lines. GASIN staff would then visit the sites to validate incident reports and follow up the operators and regulators respectively. Internally, GASIN documents the responses of each stakeholder, and maintains external advocacy, in collaboration with the community representatives, until the incident is fully resolved. Community representatives then return to inform their people on what happened and how it was resolved, including any lessons that may be learned from the incident.
GASIN sees an important value in bringing about this sense of responsibility and ownership in communities, because, in this participatory approach, all stakeholders, including communities, operators and regulators, work together for the common good of preventing accidents and incidents. GASIN follows up all GMG reports to ensure, through lobby and advocacy, that appropriate mitigation measures are deployed without any need for violence. Hence, GASIN's approaches remain peaceful and respectful in order to engender peace among the stakeholders of the growing gas regime even in the face of conflicts.
The volunteers (GMGs) from the communities were selected by the communities' respective focus groups and trained by GASIN on various areas. The trainings designed and conducted for them covered report writing, negotiation skills, and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), 'Health, Safety and Environment' (HSE), Joint Investigation Visits (JIV) and the technicalities of the Gas Alert System. The training was meant to educate the GMG members on relevant subjects to accord them the requisite capacity to carry out their duties on behalf of their respective communities.
During the training, case studies of resource exploitation issues and environmental challenges in their respective communities were reviewed and used to make broad clarifications. The communities benefitting from this system include Polaku, Koroama and Obunagha in Gbarain kingdom of Bayelsa state; Ebogoro, Obie, Obrikom, Mgbede, Okwuizi and Aggah of Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers state, and Oshie, Akala-Olu and Enito 2 of Ahoada-West Local Government Area of Rivers state.
Relevant hotlines are provided for the GMGs and also displayed on GASIN billboards in all the communities in order to encourage the community members to make reports to GASIN and government regulatory agencies. In GASIN's office is a gas alert operator (GAO), whose responsibility is to receive alerts from GMGs. In setting up the gas alert system, we have demonstrated to the community members that they can take responsibility for their own safety and encourage other civil society organizations to consider this sustainable approach. The system has yielded positive results in these areas.