The delayed approval of the Tilenga Development Project Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report will push forward the Final Investment Decision (FID) by the international Oil Companies (IOCs) Total E&P and Tullow Uganda.
The revelation was made by Hon. Peter Lokeris, the Minister of State for Minerals during the second Public Hearing for the Tilenga ESIA in Nwoya district.
The Public Hearing was organized by the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) on the request of the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) which is mandated to approve the ESIA under Regulation 22 of the 1998 NEMA Act.
In his opening remarks to over 900 locals from Nwoya and other parts of the region, Hon. Lokeris said government had made milestones towards the realization of First Oil in the country since its discovery in 2006.
“Since the discovery of commercial volumes in 2006, upstream capital investment has grown substantially. This implies the interest in our resource is at its peak. We have created the necessary legal framework to regulate the sector and we are now only waiting for the approval of the ESIA to enable the developer make the Final Investment Decision,” said Lokeris.
The Tilenga Development Project ESIA conducted by AECOM Uganda limited and Partner consult on behalf of the developers Total E&P Uganda B.V. and Tullow Uganda Operations PTY Ltd production, describes the main characteristics of the project, the identified impacts and the proposed mitigation measures to minimize potential negative environmental and social impacts.
Mr. Otonga Michael, the Director Finance and Administration at the PAU while delivering the Executive Director’s remarks said the Public Hearing was organized to capture the input from the Projected Affected Persons (PAPs).
“The objective of the ESIA Public hearings is to provide the platform for the developer to inform the entire public of the outcomes of the ESIA study, verify accuracy of the findings in relation to the situation on the ground and give the affected and interested parties an opportunity to express their opinions on the issues contained in the findings of the ESIA study,” said Otonga.
However during the submissions on the ESIA, the LCV Chairman for Nwoya District Mr Patrick Oryema highlighted that the Oil and Gas sector is the most volatile industry which if handled badly would spark unending suffering.
“We the people of Nwoya are very happy that you (PAU) have organized for us such a gathering to capture our opinions about the Tilenga Project ESIA, however we may have either positive or negative results if the issues raised today are not incorporated in the report,” said Oryema.
In his submission, he drew attention to several issues that included; neglected of Nwoya from most of the developments and heaping them in Bunyoro alone, the ESIA should have a systematic employment plan and follow Ugandan Labour Laws on employment, meet tax obligations for local governments, Nwoya district be consulted always and developer should not only rely on Uganda Wild Life Authority, have the district involved in the choice of Corporate Social Responsibility that the developer may wish to implement and deal with the imbalance of developments in the Oil Producing Districts.
The area Woman Member of Parliament for Nwoya district Hon. Lilly Adong in her submission said she was not happy with the name of the project and proposed it be changed to reflect the culture and traditions of the Project Area.
“Rename it to ‘Tilenge’ instead of ‘Tilenga’ which means a kob jumps over a fly,” said Adong sending the crowd in frenzy.
She also noted that there was need to have assurance on waste management given the sensitivity of the area the resource is located.
“Almost all the operations are in an echo sensitive area, we should be allowed to form a pressure group that will be granted unrestricted access to the operational areas to ensure the developer is following what is in the ESIA,” added Adong.
Hon. Simon Oyet, the Nwoya area Member of Parliament said he was optimistic the Tilenga Project will have far reaching positive impacts if their demands as the Acholi community are incorporated in the ESIA report.
“If this is not a mere accountability gathering for the tax payers money, then we demand more as a region,” said Oyet.
He further demanded that the developer invest more in the social services provision and capacity building if the locals are to really benefit.
“Total E&P should be asking themselves how many schools have they constructed in Nwoya, how many scholarships they are offering to the locals, what preparation has it put in capacity building of the masses to supply the industry,” wondered Oyet.
Oyet also made a request to have the Baguba Airstrip upgraded so as to balance development for both Bunyoro and Acholi sub-regions that both lie in the Albertine Grabben.
Other issues raised by many of the participants included the Trans-boundary Conflict between Uganda and DR. Congo, the human-wildlife conflicts that are on the increase in the area, ring-fencing of local content, plan well for alternative livelihoods to avoid the ‘Dutch-Disease’.
Response by Government and Developers
Speaking on behalf of the government, Hon Peter Lokeris allayed fears by the locals and informed them that the Petroleum Authority will have all their concerns dealt with since it is mandated to regulate the sector on behalf of all Ugandans.
He also said the National Oil and Gas Policy has it clearly stipulated on how Oil revenues will be used to transform the country.
“The government planned well for this resource. We have the necessary Policy and legal requirements to address the needs of Ugandans and as Government we shall see that the developer adheres to them to the dot,” Lokeris assured the masses.
Mr. Dozith Abeinomugisha the Director Exploration at the PAU re-affirmed Government’s stand by revealing that the National Content Policy has all the needs of the locals on local content like ring-fencing of certain jobs and services to only Ugandans.
“If you look at the National Content Policy, all the services, and jobs for the locals are clearly stated. That means they developer can only look for an alternative in case there is no one in the country,” said Abeinomugisha.
The developer Total E&P said all the issues raised by the public on the ESIA had been all captured in the report detailing the problems and the mitigation measures.
“This study took us 3 years, we have carefully looked at all the issues that have been raised here today and trust me they are all in this ESIA report. I implore you to find time in these remaining days and read through this report,” said Mr.Yves Jean, the Total E&P Representative.
All the issues captured in the two Public Hearings will now be presented to the NEMA by the Presiding Officer in a report that will detail the outcomes of the Hearings and the recommendations to NEMA for further action.
Once NEMA finds that the issues raised deserve consideration, the developer will be asked to integrate them in the ESIA before it is approved to clear the developer to start work on the Tilenga Development Project to usher Uganda on the Development and Production Stage.