A new report has queried the impact of oil operations on the environment and communities living adjacent to oil sites and wherever the pipeline from the Albertine region will pass.
Speaking at the launch of a human rights impact assessment of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, authored by Oxfam, Global Rights Alert (GRA), the Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), and the Northern Coalition on Extractives and Environment (NCEE),Caroline Brodeur, the private sector advisor for Oxfam said many communities are worried the exploration will have on their lives.
“Despite promises about jobs and a better future, communities are worried about lost land, a damaged environment, and the ‘empty promises’ of oil money,” Brodeur said.
“The risks posed by further oil exploitation in East Africa are immense. We urge companies and governments to review these newly-released findings, which reflect the fears, hopes, and recommendations of communities around the Lake Albert oil projects and ‘down the line,’ and commit to a different path forward.”
Commercial quantities of oil were discovered under Lake Albert in 2006 by the British exploration company Tullow Oil and expectations were high that the discovery would quickly translate into significant new sources of foreign investment and government revenue.
However, according to the report, whereas oil production is yet to begin, 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.
“Communities are particularly worried about the future. In addition to lost land and livelihoods, they are concerned that oil development will further contaminate their water, contribute to noise and air pollution, and impact their health for the worse,” the report says.
According to Rashid Bunya, research and advocacy officer for the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) many communities fear the worst is yet to come.
“Our research reveals that these projects have already heavily impacted human rights associated with the land, livelihoods, and environment of communities in Uganda. Despite the efforts of government and companies, the risks related to the upcoming phases are huge, especially in a context where people are facing mounting threats to civic participation,” Bunya said.
Maria-Isabel Cubides, a researcher at the FIDH Globalisation and Human Rights Desk said locals claim they are unable to freely visit villages affected by oil projects and note that consultations about oil development are often perfunctory rather than participatory.
“Companies are wreaking major social disruption particularly affecting women as they seize land to make way for oil, often without adequate consultation,” Cubides said.
“Individuals and communities whose property has been expropriated for the project want more information and fair compensation for lost land and property. Families worry that oil projects are shattering their community structures and undermining their traditional lifestyles and cultures.”
Government recently said all persons affected by the oil project will be compensated adequately.
“All the project affected persons have been identified, and the affected property assessed and valued. During the assessment and evaluation exercise, all these people and their spouses) are required to sign on their assessment forms to confirm that what has been captured is indeed what has been taken stock of by the valuers and assessors,” said Ali Ssekatawa, the director Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda.
“This is done in the presence of local leaders, district leaders, government representatives including staff of the Petroleum Authority of Uganda. There is always a translator from the community who interprets the information in the local language to the project affected persons. All are given a copy of the assessment form.”