1- Marinza, the national treasure that generated a disaster
On April 1, one of the richest oil areas in Albania saw a costly explosion, almost in the verge of a health catastrophe as much as an environmental one. Bankers Petroleum Albania Ltd, operates in Albania for more than 10 years and accusations against the company have been frequent. During February, the journalist Ylli Rakipi, in his show ‘’Te paekspozuarit’’ transmitted an investigation that sheds light on the concession of the Albanian government to Bankers Petroleum for the oil field in Patos-Marinze, a field that was discovered for the first time in 1928 and today remains one of the largest fields containing oil in Europe.
The inception of the history of this oil field does not date back in 2004, when Bankers Petroleum signed a contract with the Albanian Government, but earlier in 1993 when the government entered into negotiations with the British company Premier Oil and a year later, in 1994 when the agreement for Patos-Marinze was signed. From this moment until 2004 several dynamics were present, such as breach of contracts, opening of new negotiations, dynamics that were characterized by the lack of transparency by ‘’freeing’’ the spot for Bankers Petroleum, a company that in 10 years accumulated incomes reaching 2 billion $ and pays less taxes than a small shop. However, this is not the main problem that will be discussed in this report.
The report will focus on the control of different governments towards these companies. Were they working within required standards? Patos-Marinza is an inhabited area and only 10 km away fom Fier, one of the largest cities in Albania population wise.
How safe were these inhabitants from 1994 until this April when the catastrophic explosion happened? In fact, there is no data from the Ministry of Health if periodic checks were conducted with these people. We have not heard or seen a study on health damages the work there might cause, if it does not respect required standards. If until April 1, no one had heard about Bankers, today this name is associated as ‘’Gerdeci 2’’. As of April 1, there are people from the area going from hospital to hospital searching for help, and instead of facing the readiness of medicals to treat them, they are informed that their symptoms, dizziness, headaches, loss of equilibrium, lack of attention are all viral symptoms, not indicators of a toxic shock that might have been caused as a result of the explosion and the subsequent release of gas. Strangely, all inhabitants of Patos-Marinze, from the first day of April until now were diagnozed with a virus only affecting them and no one else in the territory of Albania…
Of course it should be like this, since Bankers, immediately after the explosion declared publicly that the gas emmitted is not damaging, but shortly afterwards the same company called for evacuation of the area. In the investigation of the issue it was revealed that one of the Albanian MPs, Mr. Erjon Braçe, in one of his articles at ‘’Koha Jone’’ newspaper said: ‘’More than Bankers, what worries me is the silence. Oil is our national treasure, Bankers is only an economic operator that has an agreement with Albpetrol. That is all, nothing more. No doubt, Bankers has the responsibility to implement the agreement in line with Albanian laws for the area where it operates. But oil is our treasure, the wells also, oilbearing areas as well, therefore it is our public responsibility over this treasure. The day of the explosion I wrote that Bankers is not telling the truth!!! In fact, from that day Bankers has been silent!! If Bankers is silent, we must speak.’’
To continue even further with the cause, what we would like to know is related to the technology used in the well and the substances injected there. What substances are distributed and at what level were they spread in the air after the explosion? Of course, in this situation we are faced with other implications such as: how many underground layers have been damaged??
We remind that Patos-Marinze field functions as an oil source since 1994 and it would be interesting if the Ministry of Health would offer data regarding the health of 21 year olds living there or regarding the illnesses commonly found in the area. What is the average age of deaths for inhabitants in Patos-Marinze?? Do they have any connection with the oil wells or the side effects caused by the out of date technology used to extract this oil??
We would like to have data from the Ministry of Health and any other institutions to identify if the 21 year old activity of extracting oil was conducted with the proper conditions and the health of inhabitants in the area has not been affected in any moment. Unfortunately, all the symptoms they are displaying today are directly connected to a possible poisoning. It is unacceptable to think that the Ministry of Health not only refused to take any responsibility for the case, but in no occasion did it give instructions to inhabitants who live in such an endangered area.
If the Ministry has taken for granted that in 21 years the work has been conducted under maximum security, then why after April 1 no initiative has been undertaken to raise awareness for anyone planning to operate in Patos-Marinze? It is the duty of this Ministry to take care of its citizens’ health, even oblige them to conduct periodic check ups, in order to guarantee their wellbeing, at least their physical wellbeing since it is impossible to deal with them in the terrible hospital conditions.
Looking at the activities of the Ministry for this month, it was evidenced that the Minister, on the 25th of April conducted two ‘’very’’ important visits in Valbone and Bajram Curri, where in the first one he promised ‘’modern’’ equipment and in the second an increase in the number of doctors. A day earlier he was in Kukes to deliver the same promises and on April 22 in Elbasan, and April 10 in Koplik. Words, words, words and more words. In Marinze he was only on the 7th of april, 6 days after the explosion to see the conditions of the health center and to make available more mobile units. Inhabitants are poisoned, they need urgent treatment and special care. They are ill also due to the lack of health monitoring, in their veins there is poisoned blood that will affect their successors. It is not clear why the Ministry is silent when these things are well known. At this moment we are not interested in contracts that are less than transparent, but people’s health, like me, you and the Minister’s.