Recently, I got a copy of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) technical summary report from a civil society partner as government through its lead agencies National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and other Joint Venture partners commit to ensuring that the oil and gas resources benefit Ugandans.
Tremendous efforts on social and environment considerations through conducting studies like ESIA for oil projects have taken place for the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields, and the public has been included through public hearings.
Strides towards attaining first oil by 2022 are ongoing. However, this might not come to pass due to several challenges along the way. Away from that, I read though some publication by NEMA for the East Africa EACOP’s ESIA report and realized that much has to be done before the project starts, and also before the developer is awarded a certificate.
This report should be presented in a simplified and less technical language and where possible some key sections translated into local languages for effective local input.
The developer should conduct an in-depth assessment of the social impact and development of a comprehensive livelihood restoration plan for social welfare enhancement as the project is most likely to have potential significant impacts on pipeline host communities, their welfare and livelihoods.
Some key impacts that were not assessed include disintegration of families, gender-based violence, spread of diseases, school drop-out rates, crime rates, early marriages and child labour, among others.
The EACOP ESIA report mentions of hydrotesting as one of the major project components. It doesn’t quantify the impact of hydrotest on water resources, communities and the environment, hence its impacts and mitigation plans should be indicated.
An assessment of the potential threat of insecurity and transboundary conflict, an appraisal of the plausible mitigation measures must be conducted, the security of the pipeline and its possibilities of breeding insecurity in the host communities in respective countries (Uganda and Tanzania) are not assessed.
There is limited assessment of potential impacts of the project to water resources including wells, boreholes, and streams in the area in terms of their fate as they give way for the pipeline as well as daily amounts of water abstraction from Lake Albert.
There is need for a comprehensive re-assessment of impacts, implications for breeding grounds for aquatic life and provision of practical alternative water sources.
The EACOP ESIA report lacks deeper analysis of the ecosystems that contribute to the common good. The pipeline route shall impact on ecosystems such as forests, Wambabaya forest reserve, wetlands mostly along greater Masaka corridor, wells, and streams and rivers like Katonga, Kagera, Kafu, Kibale, which cannot be compensated for at an individual level.
An economic valuation of these ecosystems along the EACOP corridor must be undertaken to assess their intrinsic value and the impacts. There is also need to clearly document the exact amount of land required for the project and the locations for proper planning for land acquisition, assessment and compensation. For instance, the project requires extra 333ha of land for eventualities though its location is not indicated.
This could impact on people and the environment. The ESIA does not provide a proper hierarchy of reporting grievances related to the EACOP project. A project of this nature is bound to be accompanied by a variety of grievances even across countries.
I recommend development of grievance management mechanism for the proponent project for such a project of trans-boundary nature.
Finally, adequate caution must be exercised to avoid destroying the environment and disenfranchising citizens of Uganda, oil development practices that do not compromise the ability of future generations.
The petroleum developments should also extensively seek public views in an effort to mitigate negative impacts on society and nature from the 11 districts’ technical staff, local leaders and community members.
Atusinguza Sandra is the field coordinator with African Institute for Energy and Governance (AFIEGO)