Andrew Ddamba Gwabali, the Uganda Total E&P Environment and Diversity Field Officer says that some of the sites pending restoration are hosting studies in preparation for oil production. In such areas, new boreholes have been drilled for detailed studies on underground waters (aquifers).
The restoration of Murchison
Falls National Park ecosystem where oil wells were dug during the exploration
of the Albertine Graben remains incomplete.
Total E&P, the company in charge of the process says that there are
still some remedial work to undertake in some of the sites.
Collectively, the company drilled
at least 40 Exploration and Appraisal Wells inside Murchison Falls National
Park in Oil Exploration area One.
Andrew Ddamba Gwabali, the Uganda
Total E&P Environment and Diversity Field Officer says that some of the
sites pending restoration are hosting studies in preparation for oil
production. In such areas, new boreholes have been drilled for detailed studies
on underground waters (aquifers).
Gwabali however explains that the
sites that have completely been restored exhibit favorable environmental
stability, more than Seven years after their restoration. He says
that the stability has allowed different wild species including plants and
animals to re-habit such areas undisturbed.
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The exploration sites that have
been completely restored include those drilled as Exploration Wells and
Appraisal Wells and their associated facilities such as access roads.
Gwabali says majority of the
sites technically known as disturbed ecosystems have regenerated back to their
original status before exploration took place. An appraisal well is an
underground facility used in determining the quantity of underground crude oil
while the exploration well indicates the presence of crude oil under the
Uganda Radio Network visited
Jobi-4 Appraisal Well, drilled on August 5, 2012 and restored on May 30, 2013
to observe the regeneration of nature in the area. At the site, termites have
built a giant mount, about five meters north of the base of the concrete mark
stone of the Appraisal Well.
On top of the termite mount, is a Savannah shrub tree with green lush leaves. Around this feature, fresh wildlife
dung indicates visitation of wildlife in the night. The surface of the
disturbed area has regained its natural appearance with other untouched
sections so much so that it is difficult for one to tell that some human
activities took place here unless told so.
Chris Ocowun, the Total E&P
Public Relations Coordinator says Exploration and Appraisal activities caused
significant disturbance to fragile park ecosystem. He says Oil Companies were
required to minimize disturbance to wildlife as much as possible.
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Ocowun says the law requires
involvement of local leaders and park authorities at every stage of restoration
to ensure that no malice is done to the park ecosystem.
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Ocowun explains that during
restoration, drill pad soils are scarified before they are replanted with
native grasses and watered. He says this is done with involvement of the Uganda
Wildlife Authority Environment Monitoring Warden.
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According to Gwabali, it is
extremely difficult to tell that disturbance of the park ecosystem affected an
area of land measuring 100 square meters without being told due to the high level
of success in the restoration.
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Since commercial oil discovery in
the Albertine Graben in 2008, communities in Nwoya district neighboring
Murchison Falls National Park have blamed increase in human – wildlife conflict
on oil exploration activities. They say the activities pushed wildlife close to
each other as park habitats were taken over or disturbed by oil exploration
The community fears prompted a
series of studies to establish the impacts of oil exploration and environment
restoration activities on Wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park. Results of
one such research was published in the African Journal for Ecology in December
The study planted Cameras in the
various restored sites to record their interactions with wildlife. It found
that giraffe returned to park ecosystems with heavy density of restored drill
pads compared to any other mammals. Overall, the study concluded that wildlife
never avoided the oil disturbed areas throughout their studies.
Findings have been published
under the title “Assessing the impacts of oil exploration and restoration on
mammals in Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Uganda”.