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NGOs say African oil project threatens population, ecosystem

By AFP

Added 10th September 2020 08:43 PM

"Oil in East Africa: Communities at Risk" released by the FIDH, is a summary of impact studies that were conducted over two years in Uganda and Tanzania.

NGOs say African oil project threatens population, ecosystem

Total will acquire Tullow Oil’s stake. Photo/File

"Oil in East Africa: Communities at Risk" released by the FIDH, is a summary of impact studies that were conducted over two years in Uganda and Tanzania.

A multi-national plan to exploit oil in east Africa threatens 12,000 familes and fragile ecosystems, international charity groups warned Thursday

The project focuses on oilfields in Uganda and is led by French oil group Total, with work scheduled to be launched by the end of the year.

But a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) based on studies with Oxfam charges that "risks posed by further oil exploitation in East Africa are immense."

Total, which is to work with the Chinese oil company CNOOC, the British group Tullow Oil, and the governments of Tanzania and Uganda, rejected some "allegations", but told AFP it would continue to work with non-governmental organisations and local communities to address their questions.

"Oil in East Africa: Communities at Risk" released by the FIDH, is a summary of impact studies that were conducted over two years in Uganda and Tanzania.

The plan is to exploit Ugandan oil resources discovered in 2006 near Lake Albert, and pump it to the coast via a 1,440 kilometre (900-mile) pipeline across Tanzania.

Oxfam official Caroline Brodeur told an online press conference the project would affect "more than 12,000 familes" and said communities had no idea if their land would be lost and where they might have to move to.

"After nearly two decades of oil exploration, many communities fear the worst is yet to come," wrote Rashid Bunya of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), one of the NGOs that helped compile the reports.

"Despite promises about jobs and a better future, communities are worried about lost land, a damaged environment, and the ‘empty promises' of oil money," added Oxfam advisor Caroline Brodeur.

Damage to traditional ways of life and social upheaval that often affects women the most were other potential pit-falls from the project, the report noted.

"Companies are wreaking major social disruption -- particularly affecting women -- as they seize land to make way for oil, often without adequate consultation," FIDH researcher Maria Isabel Cubides said.

Meanwhile, "existing projects in the Albertine basin have been marred by allegations of human rights violations, slow payments, disruption of children's education, loss of traditional sources of livelihood, and opaque resettlement processes," the report said.

The FIDH called attention in particular to forced acquisitions and expulsions that were poorly compensated

In addition, the project will affect delicate ecosystems that host rich sources of biodiversity, the report said.

In Uganda, the drilling is located in several natural reserves, one of which extends to Murchison Falls, the country's largest national park.

In reaction, Total told AFP it rejected reports of pressure on local activists but insisted it was prepared to "pursue useful dialogue" with those impacted by the project. 

It also welcomed recommendations in the report, which the French group said it had even contributed to.

Some recommendations had already been acted upon and others "will be the object of an analysis concerning their feasability and implementation," a statement said.

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