Despite criticisms from environmentalist groups, two giant fossil fuel companies reached a deal Tuesday to launch a huge oil megaproject in Uganda.
China National Offshore Oil Corporation and TotalEnergies (France) agreed to invest $10B (8.9B) in a project that will drill for oil in one region of the world’s most biodiverse.
The agreement comes 16 year after oil reserves at Lake Albert were discovered, which is the natural border region between Uganda & the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was happy with the investment. However, critics claim that it will disrupt ecosystems or displace thousands of people.
What are the environmental concerns?
The project plans to drill for oil within several nature reserves. These reserves are estimated at 6.5 billion barrels, with 1.4 billion of them currently available.
The project will include one of the longest oil pipelines in the world to bring the oil to market. It will be over 1,400 km (900 miles) long.
According to the International Federation for Human Rights, 12,000 people could lose their land rights in a report published last year.
Landry Ninteretse from 350Africa.org, the regional director for the region, stated that the project could result in “displacing thousands, endangering water resources of millions of Ugandans. Tanzanians, destroying vulnerable ecosystems and pushing further into climate chaos.”
Environmental groups also pointed out the incompatibility of the project with the targets set by the 2015 Paris climate accord.
Potential boom for Uganda’s poor
Museveni, a strongman, dismissed environmental concerns and said: “Let the NGO go and sleep in a bush if you want. … We don’t hide anything.”
The per capita income of the relatively poor central African country, which is landlocked, was less than $800 in 2019. Authorities hope that oil exports could help lift the nation into upper-middle-income status.
Museveni, the Ugandan leader since 1986, suggested that oil discovery would help him stay in power.
However, claims of corruption, slow bureaucratic processes, and slow drilling progress have delayed the start of drilling by many years.
Patrick Pouyanne, CEO TotalEnergies, addressed environmental concerns at a ceremony in Kampala. He stated that the company is “conscious about the sensitivities in the areas where we will be working, in particular from a environmental point of view.”
He stated that “We are committed towards leaving a positive environment footprint,”
ab/nm (AFP, AP)