Oil activity in mangroves causes a series of environmental impacts:
- interruption of fresh water flow to the trees;
- alteration in the flow of sea water both toward and within the forests, altering the drainage patterns and causing changes in vegetation and soils and a general instability in the area;
- deforestation, caused by construction of infrastructure such as: drilling platforms, camps, wells, access roads, heliports, refineries, pipelines etc;
- well drilling completely destroys the surrounding area, and alters the natural hydrology of the mangrove;
- changes in the soils can provoke alterations in the pH of the soil and water, leading to a chronic deterioration in the quality of the mangroves;
- discharging of solid wastes can destroy the mangrove forest by asphyxiation of the pneumatophors or by the formation of a barrier to the ebb and flow of water;
- dumping of liquid wastes (formation water) produces negative impacts on the animal life of the mangrove.
The recovery of the mangroves after such impacts can take decades, even if no new spills occur.
There have been calls for moratoriums on oil exploration in the mangroves, including the Oilwatch Declaration to the 7th Conference to the Parties (COP) to the Ramsar Convention (San José, Costa Rica, 10-18 May 1999):
WE CALL FOR
- The stoppage of any new oil exploration in mangrove zones.
- The withdrawal of all oil infrastructure located in Mangroves (Refineries, wells, service stations).
- The avoiding of mangrove zone in the planning of oil and gas pipeline routes.
- The integration into the RAMSAR Convention of all mangrove zones which are at risk or under pressure from oil activity, with the objective of preserving their integrity.
- An inventory under the Convention, of tropical mangrove zones which have already suffered some intervention, in order to begin their immediate restoration.
- A socio-environmental impact study of all oil activities in mangrove zones to be carried out under the auspices of the Convention. The study should cost the impacts of oil activity and their restoration, and establish responsibilities.
- The results of this study to be made legally binding for RAMSAR member countries.
- Efforts to be made by the Secretariat of the RAMSAR Convention to integrate those countries, which while not members are confronting problems with, or threats of, oil extraction activities in their mangrove zones.