Environmental Sensitivity Index Mapping of the Coastal Areas of the Niger Delta Region, Nigeria

  • Vremudia Onyeayana Wekpe

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Niger Delta Region (NDR) of Nigeria is subject to pervasive oil spill pollution caused by distinct yet interrelated factors. These oil spill incidents wherever they occur, may be associated with negative environmental and socio-economic consequences, which are not yet completely understood in terms of their occurrence and manifestations. It is this gap in the complete understanding of both the environmental and socio-economic consequences of the oil spill problem in the NDR, that laid the foundations for this study. This study focused attention on the terrestrial environmental sensitivity index (ESI) mapping of the study area. The broad aim of this research was to develop an environmental and socio-economic sensitivity index for the terrestrial zones of the NDR coastal areas to possible incidences of oil spill pollution. The research adopted the multiple methodology research design. This included the use of remote sensing and big data research by tapping into the resources available on the Google Earth Engine Platform (GEEP), space time pattern mining (STPM) techniques comprising of hotspot analysis, time series forecasting and machine learning (ML). Consensus research involving the use of analytical hierarchy process (AHP) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based multiple criteria analysis (MCA) was used to combine data from multiple sources to arrive at coherent codified results. Oil spill forecast and machine learning results shows that there is a pattern to oil spill occurrences in the Niger Delta with statistically significant hotspots identified in Rivers State, Bayelsa State and Delta State. Forecast root mean square error (RMSE) and forecast validation RMSE are -1.016328 and 1.035992 respectively. ESI mapping results show that over 57% of the study area is sensitive to oil spill pollution in one form or the other. 68% of the identified sensitive areas are classified as extremely environmentally sensitive with 11,752km2, while 7.1% are classified as less sensitive. This relative classification of environmental sensitivity in the study area is termed the Niger Delta Relative Environmental Sensitivity Index (NDRESI). Further results show that millions of residents of the NDR (Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States), inhabiting over 13,000 communities of the region are exposed to arguably different levels of negative impacts from potential oil spill pollution. The classification of potential socio-economic sensitivity ranges from extremely sensitive to possible cases of oil spill pollution to no sensitivity. The communities that were identified to be most socio-economically sensitive include; Umusam, Aladja, Obite, Obelle, Agbakabiriya, Gbaraun, Oshie Oporoma, Ekanakiri, Onyeoma, and Twon Brass amongst others. This relative classification of socio-economic sensitivity to oil spill pollution in the study area is termed the Niger Delta Relative Socio-Economic Sensitivity Index (NDRSESI). These findings are arguably very relevant for the development and deployment of improved guidelines for the management and protection of environmentally sensitive sections of the Niger Delta region and the safeguarding of livelihood sources by the relevant authorities, especially in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) #1, #2, and #15.

Date of Award13 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMalcolm Whitworth (Supervisor) & Brian Baily (Supervisor)

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