Uganda’s National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) has responded to a resolution by the European Union (EU) Parliament regarding the impoverished East African nation’s oil projects.
Last week, the EU made resolutions about key issues regarding the country’s oil projects, including issues to do with social and environmental risks posed by the Lake Albert development projects in Uganda and Tanzania.
Nema says that the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for Kingfisher, Tilenga and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects were done in accordance with the laws of Uganda and in full consideration of and with due regard to all the agreements that Uganda is party to, including the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to the Sustainable Development Goals; UN Paris Climate Agreement; the International Energy Agency Global Energy Review 2021; the Cotonou Agreement.
“The Environment and Social Impact Assessments followed the time tested and conventionally agreed principles of the Environment and Social Impact mitigation hierarchy which involves avoidance of sensitive eco-systems, mitigating manageable impacts including reducing of impacts, environmental restoration as well as offsetting of residual impacts,” said the Authority, whose Executive Director is Dr Akankwasah Barirega.
Nema also said it had conducted the necessary consultations. “The process was done in consultation with relevant lead agencies and other stakeholders including conducting public hearings for all the three projects. The process gave adequate opportunity to all stakeholders to provide input into the process including in the development of resettlement action plans.”
The authority also assured the EU and Ugandans that it has instituted measures to ensure that the Murchison Falls National Park is not destroyed since some part of it will be used for the oil projects.
“Like all other projects, development of oil and gas project requires a level of land take for effective implementation. The ESIA process being mindful of this, endeavours to minimise land take from communities and sensitive/protected areas as much as possible. Only 0.05% of the 3000km2 of the Murchison Falls National Park will be utilised by oil and gas activities. All the other infrastructure including the refinery and Central Processing Facility will be located outside the park,” further wrote Nema.
“The Authority hereby clarifies that whereas oil and gas activities may have impact on Murchison Falls Conservation Area, adequate mitigation measures including biodiversity offset mechanisms have been put in place.”
It also admitted that the EACOP will only pass through one central forest reserve and that a contingency plan has been put in place to handle oil spill emergencies.
“Whereas the EU parliament resolution claims that EACOP will traverse protected areas in Uganda and Tanzania, we wish to clarify that using avoidance approach to determine the routing for the pipeline many sensitive ecosystems including all Ramsar sites were avoided. The pipeline will only cross one central forest reserve,” said Nema.
“The pipeline will be buried, coated to prevent rusting and has inbuilt automated leakage detection mechanisms. In the unlikely event of oil spill emergency, a national oil spill contingency plan has already been developed and launched by Government. Additionally, all oil companies are required by law to have put in place oil spill contingency plans.”
The National Environmental Management Authority also addressed concerns regarding the carbon footprint for the oil and gas projects. Nema says that each of the projects quantified greenhouse gas emission estimates as part of the ESIA review process, and that these estimates are what informed the review of engineering designs to ensure low carbon emission pathways.
The authority also listed a number of mitigation measures that will be implemented regarding carbon footprint.
Nema says that the national grid power will be used to meet part of the energy needs of the projects to re-duce carbon intensity of the project; that there will be no routine flaring during normal operations; that there will be recovery of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to reduce hydrocarbon burning for energy production; and that there will be vapour recovery units located at Central Processing Facility to process generated gasses.
The Dr Akankwasah-led government agency also made it clear that there will be no unnecessary idling on non-road mobile machinery plant and project vehicles; there will be regular servicing and maintenance of plants, use of centralised power generation to minimize diesel generators during construction, and that there will also be the offsetting of net residual emissions through tree planting projects, provision of cheap LPG to transition the economy from use of biomass energy which is currently at 88 per cent of total primary energy consumption, as a way to “significantly reduce pressure on Uganda’s forest cover.
“The National Environment Management Authority continues to promote green development of our economy and there are efforts to achieve early energy transition through initiatives like emission free electric automobiles, hydropower and solar energy development.”
Nema added: “It is worth emphasising that Uganda’s economic development path is a green one as guided by the National Green Growth Development Strategy, 2017. And indeed our overall carbon footprint is very low standing at 0.1 metric tonnes of carbon per person per year as compared to the average for Europe at 6.98 metric tonnes of carbon per person per year.”
On the issue of fear of loss of land and livelihoods, Nema said that the Environment and Social Impact review process comprehensively assessed all social impacts related to the projects and the developers were mandated to develop and implement resettlement action plans in accordance with the laws of Uganda, IFC standards and Equator principles.
Nema assured Ugandans, the EU and activists that it would ensure that oil companies comply with the set standards. “The Authority wishes to assure Ugandans, our stakeholders and the Global community that the environment and social impacts of oil and gas projects in Uganda were comprehensively assessed and adequate mitigation measures put in place. The Authority continues to closely monitor the operations of the oil and gas companies to ensure compliance,” concluded Nema in its response.
You can read the full EU Parliament statement that angered Museveni’s government HERE.
The EU Parliament statement was greeted with fire-spitting criticism from Uganda, the most pronounced response being that of Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa. (Read it Here).
Meanwhile, Museveni has made it clear that nobody, including the EU Parliament, would stop Uganda’s oil projects. (Read Story Here).