The fear ofspill
disasters is one of the risks of concern as the country prepares for commercial
It is feared by environment groups and scientists that the oil spill could wipe out tourism and fishing industries and wildlife habitats in the entire Albertine Graben if plans and response mechanism are not in place before production begins.
Oil Companies CNOOC Uganda Limited, Total E&P and Tullow are
planning to develop
oil fields in the ecologically sensitive Albertine basin in Western and part of
The oil and gas resources estimated
at 6.5 billion barrels of crude oil but the fear of potential disasters
related to the industry remain high.
Such fears emerged at a recent
Public Hearing on the Environment Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report
developed for CNOOC Uganda Limited for the King Fisher Project.
The hearing organized by Petroleum
Authority in collaboration with National Environment Management Authority was
among others attended by scientists, Politicians, members of the Civil Society
and residents where the project is located.
The ESIA report
highlighted oil spills as one of the potential impacts of the project during
construction and normal operating conditions.
But several commentators
expressed concern that CNOOC Uganda did not outline how it planned to avoid or
mitigate the effects of the oil Spill on Lake Albert, its catchment areas and
The damage by oil spills differs depending on the oil type,
the location of the spill, and other factors - but the huge social, economic
and environmental damage requires quick and effective measures from oil
Lake Albert, some leaders from districts where the East African Crude Oil
Pipeline is to be laid expressed fears that the leakages from the pipeline could
affect water quality among others.
Retired Bishop of Bunyoro Kitara Diocese,
Reverend Nathan Kyamanywa was one of those that thought that CNOOC Uganda
Limited had not adequately addressed the oil spills concern.
“I expected risk management for
unplanned events to be here because this concerns my life. He is telling us
that they have it in mind but we want it here because we want to know” said
////Cue in” I expected risk management…….
Cue Out……before they begin the
Kyamanywa said his fears are based
on what has happened in other countries like the BP oil spell in the Gulf of
Mexico in 2010 killing and injuring a number of people.
Many have faulted NEMA and the
Ministry of Water and Environment for slow action in putting in place the
needed environment laws to address issues specific to the Oil and gas sector.
Some have suggested that
Environment Social Impact Assessment project approvals processes should be
halted until when the recently enacted Environment law is operational
NEMA Boss Speaks
National Environment Management Authority’s
Deputy Executive Director, Christine Echookit Akello agreed that the Oil spill
threats are real but she observed that they could be avoided with proper plans.
She said response to oil spills will be addressed
under the national Oil Spills Contingency Plan which will identify the
capacities of different institutions to respond in case of an oil spill.
The National Oil Spills Contingency Plan has
been mooted since 2012 but it is yet to be finalized. NEMA expects that it will be finalized by end
of this year.
Akello says the oil spills under the proposed plan in arranged
in three tiers according the magnitude of the problem.
////Cue In “ Tier one will be the oil spill that the oil
company will be able to manage….
Cue Out..that is for tier three”///
The National Environment Act of 2019 requires institutions or
individuals with the capacities to help in the event of a second tier oil
A massive oil spill under the new
law requires Office of the Prime Minister and other agencies like NEMA, and Petroleum
Authority among others to marshal their competencies and resources in case of a
massive spill on a water body like Lake Albert.
A recent Baseline Survey the East
African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) found that the project was likely to affect habitats
of 13 animals of conservation importance which are nationally and or globally
rare and threatened.
These include Bohor reedbuck,
African golden cat,
hippopotamus and spot-necked otter and the Chimpanzees of Wambabya and Bugoma
Chimpanzees are classified as endangered nationally and by
the International Union for
Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
It outlined other potential risks to water bodies like Lake
Albert, and Rivers like Wambabya, Semuliki and the Nile and the Nile delta also
known as the Murchison delta at the estuary of River Nile as it enters Lake
Andrew Senanbulya, a Senior Facilities Engineer at Petroleum
Authority agreed that the pipeline could lead to an oil spill.
He however said
the issue is being addressed right from the design stages of the pipeline.
He said most parts of the pipeline will be buried as a means
of reducing the effect of human activities that could jeopardize the integrity
of the pipeline.
///Cue In “These pipes are buried ………
Cue Out… as described in the soil spill contingency plan”////
CNOOC Vice President, Cun Yuyun, who has been in Kikube and
Hoima districts for the Public Hearing told URN that his organization will
ensure that it maintains its environmental standards including avoiding oil
spills while exploiting the oil resources.