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France’s Total Behind ‘Greatest Environmental Scandal’ in Yemeni History: Report

A recent report published in the French weekly magazine L’Obs has revealed the extent of environmental and human damage caused by French oil giant TotalEnergies in war-torn Yemen.

The French energy giant is one of the largest investment companies in Yemen’s fuel sector and has complete control over the gas sector, with seven transcontinental companies under its management in the country.

The April report was based on an investigation by French writer Quentin Muller for the NGO Greenpeace.

Titled “Total’s black waters, revelations on major pollution in Yemen,” Mueller documents widespread pollution caused by TotalEnergies in Shabwa, Hadhramaut, and Marib provinces, with the collaboration of the government of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The French investigation revealed TotalEnergies’ burial of millions of liters of toxic water, oil spills, use of non-standard operating techniques, contamination of the country’s largest groundwater, and the firm’s failure to recycle toxic waste.

The report also described the harm caused to land, animals, and people due to the leakage of chemicals, air pollution, and the impact of the French multinational’s operations in surrounding areas.

Mueller said that these actions led to a significant rise in cancer rates in the region, the disappearance of bees, birds, and the pollution of agricultural land, which farmers were forced to abandon.

Mueller considered TotalEnergies’ activities the “greatest environmental scandal” in the history of Yemen, saying that the facilities built by the company do not comply with international standards.

The French oil giant’s actions in Yemen came under additional scrutiny in February when the Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO MENA Rights filed a lawsuit against the company, accusing it of human rights abuses committed inside a gas plant operated by one of its subsidiaries.

MENA Rights alleges the Balhaf gas liquefaction plant in the southern province of Shabwah had been converted into a prison run by UAE forces. The group is seeking compensation for two men allegedly imprisoned and tortured at the plant.

The French firm is the largest shareholder of Yemen LNG, the company operating the Balhaf gas plant, where both men were allegedly taken in 2018 and 2019.

“Total must take responsibility for the violations committed by UAE forces in Balhaf,” said Alexis Thiry, legal advisor for MENA Rights.

MENA Rights also demands that TotalEnergies prevent the recurrence of such violations and comply with French law, which requires large companies to exercise due diligence to identify risks and prevent human rights violations while providing for civil liability and a compensation mechanism.

The company responded to the allegation stating that it “does not have a controlling interest in Yemen LNG,” adding that the decision by UAE forces to requisition that part of the Balhaf plant for use as a prison was “unrelated” to the firm’s activities.

Source: News Desk