Total launches programme to minimise gas, oil impact 

The Tilenga Biodiversity Programme seeks to protect and mitigate the impact of features in the Albertine Graben Area such as Murchison Fall.  PHOTO | Paul Murungi  

What you need to know:

The biodiversity programme seeks to reduce human pressures and strengthen the ecological resilience of Murchison Falls Protected Area through enhanced park protection and community-based management.

Total Energies has launched the Tilenga Biodiversity Programme to compensate any likely impact from oil and gas activities in the Albertine Graben Area.

The project is hosted by Buliisa and Nwoya districts and will include the development of six oil fields and drilling of around 400 wells from 31 locations.

The oil activities will take place in a highly sensitive environment within the Albertine Rift Valley, which, according to Total, hosts a number of biodiversity features, including Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Budongo Central Forest Reserve, and Lake Albert.

The area is home to more than 76 mammal species, and 450 bird species.  Discussions on reducing the impact of oil activities on the environment have been ongoing since the discovery was made public in 2006.

“When oil was discovered we had to make a deliberate effort to be part of this journey,” said Simon Nampido, the World Conservation Society director at the launch of the Tilenga Biodiversity Programme in Kampala early this week.

Phillipe Groeuix, the Total Energies’ general manager, said the programme is set on four pillars including working with Uganda Wildlife Authority to reduce human pressures and strengthen ecological resilience of the Murchison Falls Protected Area through enhanced park protection and community-based management.

“We are mindful of the sensitive context within which we are undertaking our activities. We have thus made a commitment to ensure that we implement action plans designed to produce net positive impact on biodiversity,” Phillipe said, noting that the programme will ensure a sustainable approach in working with communities towards protecting and conserving the ecologically rich area of Murchison Falls Conservation Area.

Total is also working with the National Forestry Authority to roll out conservation and restoration measures for forests and their connectivity targeting the protection of 10,000 hectares of natural forest threatened with deforestation and restoration of 1,000 hectares of tropical forest.

The activities will include providing support to protect forest reserves, restoration of forest linkages along the Budongo-Bugoma corridor and roll out community conservation education programmes

Some other key activities will include protecting and maintaining connectivity of habitats in the savanna in the proximity of the Bugungu Wildlife Reserve by addressing threats around the reserve and developing schemes to support diversification of livelihoods and reduce dependency on resources inside the reserve.

Cushion against climate change       

 Barirega Akankwasah, the National Environment Management Authority, executive director at noted that the program is proof to the world that Uganda is committed to sustainable development.

This particularly, he said, came at a time when activists have portrayed Uganda’s petroleum development efforts in negative light in consideration of climate change yet investment and production of oil and gas resources will be another way of cushioning the country against adverse effects of climate change.