Aden: Massive Air Pollution Caused by Adulterated Gasoline

Adulterated fuel shipments as a result of official corruption and murky deals at Aden's Electricity Corporation
Ashjan Bagash
October 10, 2023

Aden: Massive Air Pollution Caused by Adulterated Gasoline

Adulterated fuel shipments as a result of official corruption and murky deals at Aden's Electricity Corporation
Ashjan Bagash
October 10, 2023

Thirty-year-old Ahmed Al-Harbi, a resident of the Al-Buraiqa area (west of Aden), starts his day with the tragedy of the scenes of smoke rising from the power stations covering the sky of the city and raising the concern of residents that it is loaded with harmful gases that cause unimaginable diseases and damage. This citizen, according to his interview with "Khuyut", has recently felt difficulty breathing and that the air fades, according to his description, before reaching the lung.

Al-Harbi adds: "It's hard to believe that the smoke reaches inside homes, but unfortunately it is actually seeping into them, forcing homeowners to get out of their homes in search of fresh air and to escape from this deadly poison, especially the elderly and children, stressing that the rising clouds of black smoke have turned the lives of residents into hell.”

This is how Aden (southern Yemen) lives on the impact of a heavy rise of black smoke columns, which almost turn the sky of the city with its toxic emissions into a dark nebula from which neither light nor air penetrates, due to the adulterated gasoline—as "Khuyut" reveals in this investigation—which is spreading without control or measures to reduce its harmful effects on the environment and human health.

Furthermore, the pollution has reached such an extent that families living near fuel stations have been forced to leave their homes in search of safe housing in other areas in order to protect the health of their families and children from carcinogenic, respiratory, and asthma diseases, especially those with chronic diseases, the elderly, and children.

The reason for this worsening problem, amid escalating protests in the city of Aden, is the unloading of adulterated gasoline trucks without conducting any tests or supervision. Then, this fuel, mixed with other substances, is freely and uncontrollably circulated. This means ignoring the disastrous effects of these combustions on the environment and the health of the population. Meanwhile, a suspicious official silence dominates the scene in light of the absence of government interventions capable of resolving this problem.

"Khuyut" obtained information that the cause of the pollution is likely due to the recently imported adulterated gasoline, at a time when citizens and concerned parties, according to what was observed by "Khuyut", unanimously agree on the neglect of the official side and the internationally recognized government and hold them responsible for this disaster in the absence of confrontation efforts, which are almost non-existent.

“There is a need to take several measures to avoid a major environmental and health disaster, which requires activating the role of the Anti-Corruption Authority to ensure the existence of an independent and strong body to address these illegal practices.”

On the other hand, doctors and health specialists confirm that there are side effects from these fumes and smoke. In this regard, Dr. Markita at Aden Refinery Hospital explains to “Khuyut” that these side effects last over longer periods of time depending on the degree of sedimentation in the lung, which varies from one person to another, but these injuries, according to her, do not occur directly and are in moderate to mild proportions; however, they are very few and concentrated among children.

Non-conforming tests to gasoline specifications

The City Covered in Black Soot

Salem Ba Awadha, a resident of the city of Aden, tells "Khuyut": "Our suffering is not limited only to the power outage for long periods, but it has gone beyond that, to include the deliberate destruction of electricity stations by supplying them with adulterated fuel, which causes many of them to malfunction due to the poor fuel that does not conform to specifications, in addition to the health and environmental effects that are likely to have on the earth and humans.”

Actually, the citizens of Aden have been suffering for months from the dangers of electricity fuel stations that are spread in densely populated neighborhoods, which has sparked the anger and resentment of local residents, many of whom have decided to leave their homes and make appeals to the competent authorities to intervene and put an end to this problem, which may lead to serious environmental pollution and the spread of undesirable health diseases.

This comes in light of questions being raised about the absence of the role of the dysfunctional regulatory bodies in the areas under the control of the internationally recognized government, which has contributed to the emergence of many practices, imbalances, cases of corruption, and illicit gain at the expense of the suffering of citizens.

In this regard, Salah Saif, a judge at the Sheikh Othman Court in Aden, stresses, in a statement to “Khuyut”, the need to take several measures to avoid a major environmental and health disaster, which requires activating the role of the Anti-Corruption Authority, to ensure the existence of an independent and strong body to address these illegal practices.

“In addition to enhancing the role of the Prosecution of Violations and Consumer Protection in combating fraud and price manipulation, as these judicial authorities  investigate complaints submitted by consumers and take the necessary legal measures to punish violators.”

The judge, Saif, stresses the importance of strengthening the laws in force effectively and that these laws should include deterrent penalties for violators and clear mechanisms for monitoring and control, and therefore be implemented by various entities in the public or private sector and even individuals who deal with these materials.

“The Yemeni legislator considers the environmental crime to be a crime of harm in accordance with the provisions of the texts of the laws in force, and it is not sufficient to merely expose the environment or people’s lives and property to danger; there has to be a consequence, which is damage to the environment.”

Serious Environmental Consequences

Article 79 of the Environmental Protection Act in force in Yemen stipulates that anyone who, by his act or negligence, causes damage to the environment or to third parties as a result of violating the provisions of this Act or the regulations or decisions issued in application thereof or the laws, shall be liable, alone or jointly with others, for all costs resulting from the treatment or removal of such damages, as well as for the compensation resulting from such damages. The elements of compensation for environmental damage include the following: the cost of removing environmental damage and the purification of the environment.

In addition to compensation for damages that affect the environment itself and prevent its legitimate use, whether temporary or permanent, or damage to its aesthetic value.

While responsible environmental sources confirm to “Khuyut” that there are technical and administrative reasons behind this catastrophic failure in checking and testing the quality of the fuel used in those stations, in addition to the poor condition of the engines in those stations that cause partial combustion of fuel since no regular maintenance is performed on these engines, with a lack of specialized devices to absorb harmful gases and prevent their spread in the air.

In this respect, the Director General of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment at the Public Authority for Environmental Protection, Waleed Al-Shuaibi, warns, in an interview with “Khuyut”, of the dangers of rising fumes and their danger to the environment and the health of society, given that these fumes contain greenhouse gases—global warming gases—such as carbon dioxide, methane, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a direct source of air pollution, causing global warming and climate change. The increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to damage to the ozone layer, which protects us from the dangerous rays of the sun.

Smoke rising in Aden's sky due to adulterated gasoline

According to a study conducted by a team of international scientists in 2013—reviewed by "Khuyut"—diesel smoke consists mainly of black carbon, which has a strong impact on the climate due to the fact that it contributes to raising the Earth's temperature by almost 3,300 times more than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period of time. In addition, the World Health Organization also warns about the dangers of emissions from diesel combustion to human health.

Al-Shuaibi confirms that these fumes and smokes rising from the power stations also contain large proportions of toxic compound elements, such as carbon monoxide gas, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, lead, cadmium, and sometimes mercury, and other elements that are known for their toxicity and great danger to the health of society and the environment.

Further, these gases also directly affect the health of the people living near these stations when they inhale these toxic substances, according to Al-Shuaibi. Consequently, this, in turn, is a major cause of the spread of carcinogenic diseases, respiratory diseases, and asthma, especially in children and the elderly. In addition to their impact on the environment due to the emission of toxic gases and oxides such as nitrogen and sulfur oxides, which are a source of acid rain that cause profound damage to water and soil.

“There are documents revealing fraudulent practices carried out by the Electricity Corporation in Aden, as the first documents included sound results of the fuel that was tested in the Aden refinery, while other documents taken from the power stations revealed that it was unsound in terms of the variation in the specific density of diesel for some samples.”

It is not only the power stations that are damaged due to the adulterated gasoline, but also the vehicles and trucks that roam the city, which have had their share of damage to their engines, the rise of dense fumes from them, the consequent malfunctions in cars, and their sudden stop on public streets, which may cause many traffic accidents.

In this context, Zaid Jaber, a mechanical engineer, explains to “Khuyut”, that adulterated gasoline affects the engines of various vehicles and the machines in gas stations, which are mainly designed to receive clean and pure fuel according to high standards and quality, pointing out that adulterated gasoline sticks to the control nozzles, causing sediments that lead to clogging and corrosion of some engine supply ports, as well as causing consequences and damage to vehicles and smoke emissions from some of them.

Health Damage and the Hidden Truth

Mohammed Omar Bahoul, a pulmonologist at Khor Maksar Hospital in Aden, explains in a statement to “Khuyut”, how toxic diesel substances are transmitted to the lungs by saying: "One of the harmful effects of the adulterated diesel is the transfer of particles deep into the lungs, as the respiratory system usually filters large particles, but it finds it difficult to purify the smaller particles that are found in the adulterated diesel, and therefore smaller particles collect in the lungs and then pass into the bloodstream, which exacerbates chronic conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and many other diseases.

Bahoul continues: "There are negative health consequences caused by the fumes and soot rising from the adulterated fuel, represented in the effect of these harmful particles on the nerves of the lungs and thus swelling them and impaired their functions, in addition to the visible symptoms such as difficulty breathing and bronchitis, but in the event of reaching the dangerous stage, these toxic particles may lead to heart weakness and the occurrence of heart attacks that cause premature death.

In connection with the crisis of air pollution caused by gasoline exhaust in the city of Aden, the people and residents of the Al-Buraiqa area (west of Aden) organized many protest stops; however, no one paid attention to them. The last of which was on July 7, when another protest was organized that resulted in the governor's office issuing a decision to form a committee to investigate the causes of smoke emissions. The committee included the head of the technical department in the fuel committee, the director of the laboratory at the Al-Buraiqa facility, the head of the facilities sector in the operations of Aden Refinery Company, the general director of fuel at the Aden Electricity Corporation, the deputy director of the fuel department, and a specialist in technical affairs in the fuel import supervisory committee.

Although the relevant authority did not officially admit that gasoline was adulterated, the power stations demanded to provide fuel that complies with the standard specifications and operating requirements to avoid any damage to generators or stopping more power stations from working.

While observers, experts, journalists, and activists confirm that the issue of adulterated gasoline reveals the current deteriorating state of corruption in state institutions, which would require opening an investigation to uncover those involved in this imported shipment of fuel. They warned of the emergence of dangerous practices, as is happening in this case, the most important of which is the disruption of the activities of electricity stations and their inability to operate at their usual production capacity, in addition to the deteriorating condition of gas stations throughout Aden Governorate and the serious environmental and health problems caused by it.

Tests conforming to gasoline specifications

Results Extraction

There are documents revealing fraudulent practices carried out by the Power Stations’ Corporation, as the first documents included sound results of the fuel that was tested in Aden refinery. However, other documents taken from the power stations revealed that it was unsound in terms of the variation in the specific density of diesel for some samples, compared to the specific density pumped by the Aden Refinery Company to the Yemen Petroleum Company.

In this context, on August 3, 2023, the Aden Refinery Company announced facts that were questionable and raised doubts about them due to the smoke rising from Aden’s power stations, which began rising on June 25, 2023, causing extensive damage and widespread controversy. This prompted the governor’s office to form a special committee to investigate the case. However, the results have not been announced yet, except for the results leaked by the Aden Refinery Company, which say that it has nothing to do with what happened.

Likewise, an official source at the Aden refinery laboratory, who preferred not to be named, denies to “Khuyut” the company's connection or relationship to what happened. According to him, the Aden Refinery Company unloads the shipment, tests it, and then evaluates its results; if it does not conform, it is rejected.

But regarding this shipment, this official in the Aden refinery laboratory confirms that it is of high quality and conforms to specifications; if there is a difference, it is simple and ineffective. However, the fact is that after those results, there were two shipments: one shipment went to malls, commercial centers, the local market, and most gas stations and hospitals, while the other shipment went to the power stations, confirming that there was no complaint about the shipment that was emptied and distributed in the local market, malls, and others because it was conforming to specifications and of high quality, but doubts came from the shipment allocated for the power stations, which were probably replaced with non-conforming fuel.

Before the war in Yemen, about nine years ago, the Aden Refinery Company was the only one authorized to import. However, after the war, the Electricity Corporation became responsible and was the one that chose the fuel merchants to supply it.

Recently, there has been a remarkable spread of very primitive distillation stations in Aden, which are walled and fenced lands where refining takes place, from which gasoline and diesel come out that are not tested or monitored; rather, there are security guards protecting those abusers.

"Khuyut", through studying and evaluating documents and laboratory tests, found that there was an imbalance in the density levels, either higher or lower than what was pumped to them. In addition to that, there was also a variation in the degree of the flash point of some samples that was much higher than the degree of the flash point of the diesel fuel that was pumped by Aden Refinery Company, along with a significant rise in PH that exceeded the standard diesel specifications.

Moreover, all samples contained suspended solids, different from the diesel samples that were pumped by the Aden Refinery Company. Finally, there were also different types of diesel fuel, mixed with those pumped by Aden Refinery Company.

Ashjan Bagash

Read more

شكراً لإشتراكك في القائمة البريدية.
نعتذر، حدث خطأ ما! نرجوا المحاولة لاحقاً
النسخة العربية