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LONDON (Reuters) - The head of a group helping organize Shell's clean-up efforts in an oil Delta community in Nigeria said on Friday he was hopeful clean-up work after two spills in 2008 could start in April.
Royal Dutch Shell agreed in 2015 on a 55 million pound ($68.62 million) settlement with the Bodo community after accepting liability for two pipeline leaks due to corrosion that contaminated their land. [reut.rs/2hTxctf]
But progress to clean up the spill has been slow after Shell said members of the community had denied it access in August 2015 when work was set to begin. A community representative said they were unhappy with the contractor Shell picked.
After months of wrangling, the parties have reached agreement and clean-up work is set to start in April, said the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative (BMI), a program started in 2013 by the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria.
"Hopefully we should be able to go to site and start the clean-up next month," BMI Chairman Inemo Samiama told Reuters.
The BMI is mediating between Shell's Nigeria subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) and the Bodo community. It also includes representatives from the United Nations Environmental Programme, the local government, the Dutch embassy and several non-governmental organizations.
"SPDC remains fully committed to ensuring clean-up takes place and will continue to work with the BMI to implement a remediation plan for Bodo area," said a spokesman for SPDC.
Samiama said Shell had appointed international contractors to carry out the clean-up work. Once it commences, the first step would be to remove oil from the water surfaces before restoring landscapes that were damaged by the spill, he said.
"We are hoping this time around we are going to start this clean-up once and for all and get this job done," Samiama said, adding the entire clean-up process will take several years.
Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Edmund Blair