Tanzania and Uganda signed a $3.5 billion deal to build an oil pipeline on September 13 – sparking a wave of outcry from environmental groups. There are basically two projects: to exploit oil around Lake Albert in Uganda (419 wells, 1.7 bilion barrels) in a new oil extraction frontier, and to ship it through a 1,445 km pipeline to the coast in Tanzania. (6).
The frontier of oil extraction continues to advance, because energy cannot be recycled. The energy in the fossil fuels is burnt for ever, therefore new supplies are required although oil prices collapsed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis and there are long-term concerns about climate change. In Uganda, French supermajor Total, China’s CNOOC and flagging British firm Tullow Oil team up to plan a 1,445 km pipeline transporting oil from Uganda to Tanzania. It will connect oil fields in Uganda’s Lake Albert region to the port of Tanga on Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coastline, near the Kenyan border. Work on the pipeline will begin by 2020, and it is expected to carry nearly 200,000 barrels of oil per day, 10 million tons per year. In September 2020 Tanzanian President John Magufuli signed the deal with his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni..
There will be impacts o the local ecosystems and local people’s lives. Human rights group FIDH and NGO Oxfam published on September 10, 2020, two reports expressed concern over the project.(7). “Estimates suggest that at least 12,000 families will lose part or all of their land thanks to this project,” Sacha Feierabend, a globalisation and human rights consultant at FIDH, told FRANCE 24. “Companies go door-to-door and buy land, promising to resettle the inhabitants in new villages with new land,” she continued. However, such “compensation” looks unlikely to satisfy the local inhabitants. The pipeline plans “don’t take their customs into consideration”, Feierabend said. “For example, in some Ugandan villages where families have already been resettled, clans have been mixed and are now living on top of each other. Meanwhile certain crucial components of the common good, such as wells and pasture land shared with neighbours, cannot be moved.” . . Another concern is that air and water quality could be threatened. “Oil exploration activities carried out a few years ago in Uganda have already made access to safe drinking water more complicated, Feierabend noted. “There is no reason why it should be any different today; a leak could have disastrous consequences on the lakes and rivers in the local area,” she continued. The threat is all the more serious as the project envisages 419 oil wells being drilled near Lake Albert, one of Africa’s largest lakes. “This is an exceptional ecosystem, which allows thousands of fishermen to live off its resources, so it is crucial to prevent drilling in these protected areas,” Feierabend said.
Although the project looks set to go ahead, as things stand, Total will have to defend its role before the France’s Court of Appeal on October 28. NGO Survie, the French branch of Friends of the Earth and Ugandan associations Afigeo, Cred, Nape and Navoda have filed a complaint against the French supermajor. In particular, they accuse Total of breaking the law by expropriating land before compensating itsinhabitants.