Since 2006 when Uganda discovered its first oil in the Albertine region, government together with oil exploring companies have been working hand in hand to find the best ways to exploit the new found treasure to the maximum for economic and social benefits of all Ugandans as well as the exploration companies.
According to the Executive Director Petroleum Authority of Uganda, Ernest Rubondo, one of the proposed exploration methods will be exporting the crude oil to international market by the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), a 1,443km carbon steel heated Pipeline laid underground, which will transport the oil from Kabaale Industrial Park, Hoima District in Uganda to the Proposed Marine Storage Terminal at Chongoleani, Tanga District on the East African Cost.
In Uganda, the Pipeline will cover 296km and transverse 10 districts Kakumiro, Mubende, Sembabule and Kyotera, Rakai, Kikuube, Kyakwanzi, Gomba, Lwengo and Hoima, passing through people’s land, water sources, cultural sites and wildlife which will have both seen and unseen cultural, environmental, security, tourism, crossings and land use impacts.
“Like all the other projects that Uganda is undertaking, this will also have serious social and environmental impact and that is why government has put in place measures through laws and regulations to ensure that any negative impacts are mitigated,” Rubondo says.
According to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) CEO Tom Okurut, there will be positive impacts including new employment opportunities (Over 15000 jobs are expected to be created by EACOP) and market for goods and services brought about by the influx of people in these areas.
However, there will also be negative impacts like water, air and soil pollution cultural disruptions, exposure to diseases, loss of land where the Pipeline will be passing, loss of cultural sites and disruption of water sources
“We understand there will be some social and environmental challenges and that is why we compelled the developer, which is Total E& P to carry out an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) and give a report on how they are going to mitigate these impacts before we can offer them a certificate,” he said.
“The EACOP Pipeline has been planned in a way that it avoids water sources like lakes and rivers, wetlands and cultural sites. Any other issues that may come out in those public hearings will be addressed before the certificate is given,” he added
Okurut further urged the locals to ensure that they protect themselves again the avoidable social impacts like HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases, misusing compensation money that will leave them landless as well as family conflicts that may come from the large sums of money received.
“As much as we have been going around sensitising the PAPs, it is necessary to be cautious of these negative effects and not fall victim,” he said
The two were speaking at the second public hearing for the ESIA report for the EACOP held in Mubende District at the Kasana church of Uganda ground
The public hearings are organised by Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) to get the views of all stakeholders including Project Affected Person (PAPs), civil society, local leaders, developers and the government mainly to discuss the environmental and social impact issues that will be brought about by the construction of the EACOP.
Just like at the first hearing that was held in Kakumiro district on Monday, land compensation, environmental degradation and local content dominated the discussion in Wednesday’s hearing organised in Mubende district. The locals called for proper management of the project to ensure it doesn’t affect negatively their social wellbeing, their environment and leave them worse than it found them. The last third hearing will be held on Friday in Rakai.
The outcomes from the three hearings will determine whether NEMA approves the ESIA Report for EACOP and gives Total E&P the environmental certificate that is required for the project to commence
If the report is approved, EACOP will only be waiting for the Final Investment Decision (to be undertaken by Government of Uganda and the oil companies) before actual developments can begin
The LCV chairman Mubende District, Kibuka Francis urged NEMA and PAU to ensure that Total E&P restores the environment by planting trees, avoiding destruction of forests and wetlands among others
“Although the Pipeline is good, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the wellbeing of our people. The government should put in place nursery beds so that more trees are planted in the areas,” he said
He further urged government to carefully handle compensation and relocation of affected people by giving them adequate and timely compensation that is agreeable to both parties
“No one should be forced to leave their land without proper compensation, we do not want incidents where one is paid for their land and they can’t buy anywhere else because the money is little,” he said
The Director for Environment Safety and Security, Joseph Kobusheshe noted that government was doing everything possible to ensure that any of the oil projects does not negatively affect any Ugandan especially those in directly affected areas
“Our focus is government is to ensure that our people benefit through jobs, market opportunities, improved service delivery on top of the taxes that will come from the sale of oil. We have a role to hold the developers responsible to ensure that all developments are done with in the laws and regulations of this country stated in the National Oil and Gas Policy,” he said
Uganda has an estimated total of 6billion barrels of oil, of which 1.4 billion barrels are recoverable.
The country has contracted three international companies including Total E&P, Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Limited and CNOOC Uganda limited to do exploration and production of the park.
As part of the exploration activities, an oil refinery will be developed at Kabale industrial park