By Doris Atwijukire
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is currently seeking public comments on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the Kingfisher development project in Hoima and Kikube districts. This came after NEMA received the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the proposed Kingfisher Development Project Submitted by CNOOC Uganda Limited (CUL).
The Kingfisher Development Project refers to the oil production infrastructure to be established within Buhuka Parish along the south-eastern side of Lake Albert in Kikuube District and a feeder pipeline transporting oil from Buhuka to a delivery point at the proposed Kabaale Industrial Park in Hoima District.
The major components of the project include four onshore Well Pads, a Central Processing Facility (CPF), Production flowlines and water injection flowlines linking the wells to the CPF, Lake water abstraction station, supporting infrastructure such as camps, a materials yard, a jetty and internal access roads among others; and a feeder pipeline to transport the stabilized crude from the CPF to a delivery point in Kabaale.
The authority issued adverts in the media inviting the public to make comments while other adverts are still running on various local and national media. Copies of the ESIA Report were put in other locations that include district headquarters of the affected districts and public libraries, in various publications, local national media, online among other locations. This is intended for the public to have access to the ESIA report and make necessary inputs.
ESIA study aims to reduce uncertainty associated with the environmental and social consequences of a project through: “a systematic process which identifies, predicts and evaluates the environmental and social [positive and negative] consequences of a project before it is implemented” (UNDP, 2002).
Civil society, Persons Affected by the Project (PAPs) and other stakeholders continue to give their views on the ESIA for the Kingfisher project, expected to be submitted to NEMA by 15th May 2019 – which is a few days away. However, appreciating the public views by NEMA should be a priority concern.
There are a number of Environmental studies that have been carried out in the Albertine graben of Uganda but majority people feel their concerns have severally not been captured by NEMA before issuing the certificate for approval for the projects. The most recent one is the April 2019 ESIA report for the Tilenga project approved by NEMA and a certificate issued to Total E&P Uganda B.V and Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Limited for the development of six oil fields, an industrial area, buried infield pipelines and sup- porting infrastructures, including camps. CSOs and the PAPs feel most of their key comments were never considered. Yet, NEMA never provided feedback on how the public’s comments were integrated into the ESIA and justifications for not taking on some of their comments.
Though not provided for under the law, as a good practice NEMA should give feedback to stakeholders who take their time to make what they think would be relevant inputs. In addition, as assign of respect and appreciation to stakeholder’s efforts the good governance of the oil sector.
According to NEMA, It’s important for the public to review and make comments on the ESIA so that you can inform decisions on oil developments in Uganda. And that is important for protection of the environment and community livelihoods. However by not recognizing stakeholders concerns contravenes the essence of NEMA’s call for public views when not accountable to them (the public). As the purpose of an ESIA is to improve projects, this to some extent, can only be achieved by involving those people who are directly or indirectly affected but also appreciating their views.
As various stakeholders continue to review the ESIA Report for the Kingfisher and making their submissions to NEMA, the authority should respect the public views while making their final decisions on the project. Providing timely feedback is key and makes the public feel involved in oil project development decision making processes.
Lastly but not least, Civil society organizations should continue to advocate for reforms in the current ESIA process and act as watchdogs of NEMA on ensuring that they conform to the principles of environmental impact assessment process as a means of achieving sustainable development and avoiding the Dutch disease in the Uganda’s oil sector.
The writer is a Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED)