EACOP: Uganda Invites EU MPs to Point At 230 Rivers

The legislators were convinced by members of the Green Party, that the current route from Uganda to the Tanzanian coast “goes through 16 protected areas and 230 rivers which serve 44 million Ugandans.”
CNOOC's oil-drilling equipment arriving at Mombasa last week. Drlling is due to commence in December

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The main questions that have dominated reaction by Ugandans regarding the resolutions at the European Parliament are whether Uganda’s oil industry will get funding or if it is possible to reroute the crude export pipeline.

The latter was what the parliamentarians called on Uganda and Tanzania and the oil companies to do; halt the development of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, EACOP, project for at least a year to find an alternative route.

The legislators were convinced by members of the Green Party, that the current route from Western Uganda to the Tanzanian coastal town of Tanga, “goes through 16 protected areas and will kill hippos,” and that the pipeline will affect the “230 rivers which serve 44 million Ugandans.”

Civil society organisations in both Uganda and outside will feel energized that they have convinced a top EU body that the fossil fuel industry in Uganda and the export pipeline project in particular should not continue.

Dickens Kamugisha, the Chief Executive of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance, says it is high time the governments went for talks with the EU and other development partners, to ensure the industry is developed smoothly. The commercial phase of the industry as well as the EACOP are being developed by TotalEnergies E&P as the lead investors, CNOOC and the Uganda National Oil Company, UNOC, which is representing government’s interests.

Speaking about the demands of the European politicians, Peter Muliisa, the head of legal and corporate affairs at UNOC said the European parliament’s resolutions have no effect on the industry, saying that no point raised in the parliament held substance.

He says all the development have undergone multiple levels of scrutiny in line with international standards, providing for the protection of wildlife and other natural resources, while all affected persons have been compensated, save for two along the EACOP still having issues.  

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AFIEGO’s Kamugisha says that when it comes to compensation, the problem is that people are being undervalued but that they have no way of rejecting the money because they are poor and vulnerable.

Muliisa says it would be unthinkable that the projects can be abandoned or halted when almost 4 billion dollars (15 trillion shillings) has already been spent. He says the projects underwent environmental and social impact assessments and several independent analyses to ensure they are implemented according to international standards, which they actually surpassed, according to him.

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Dozith Abeinomugisha, a Commissioner in the petroleum directorate explains that that the most modern technology has been applied in the industry and the same is being done for the pipeline, including burying the 1,444 kilometre heated pipeline.   Insulating the pipeline means that after construction works, human activity like cultivating can still take place on the ground.

The pipeline will not be powered by diesel, but hydro and solar electricity systems, which is aimed at ensuring minimal amounts of emission.  On top of the thick walls of the insulated pipeline, it will have a shock detection mechanism that will warn against possible damage, like excavation works.

Nj Ayuk, the Chairman of the Africa Energy Chamber says he has visited Uganda and toured the oil and gas facilities several times, commending the efforts to protect the environment and the population. He says it is unfair for anyone to say that Uganda has not done enough, considering how the processes have been. 

Ayuk, also the Chief Executive Officer at Centurion Law Group says the petroleum industry worldwide cherishes the environment more than most sectors.  

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Of the total length, 20 percent of the 4-billion-dollar pipeline project is in Uganda, while the rest will be in Tanzania. “At the end of the compensation project, some 13,161 Project Affected Persons (PAPs) along the pipeline route will have received compensation in cash and in kind directly from EACOP, in line with both National Legislation and the IFC Performance Standards,” says a statement by EACOP. 

It says that 96 percent of the PAPs have some portion of their land impacted and will receive compensation for the full replacement cost of their land, structures, crops and trees, while 4 percent also require their primary dwelling to be relocated. 

This compensation process was started in 2021 and full land access is planned to be achieved in 2023, according to the company.

These are some of the reasons that the government and oil companies point at, saying that changing the route as demanded by the EU parliament, will cause big losses for both the country and the investors. Ajuk says that if the western governments and the civil society block the financial institutions there from funding African oil industry, they will instead be creating market for China because the Asian countries need the resources and are ready to finance their development.

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For the Tilenga and Kingfisher where drilling is set to commence in December, all PAPs have been compensated and resettled, save for eight in the Kingfisher area which they say have not been traced to-date.

UNOC’s Peter Muliisa says it is therefore unfair for anyone to say the people are being displaced without being duly compensated. He says the government and the oil and gas companies are waiting for an official communication from the EU parliament about the resolution before taking a step.

However, he says they will invite them to both show them around and also get some facts about them, like the people who have been evicted without compensation, as well as the waterbodies that are being destroyed by the EACOP project.

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