Address risks before construction of EACOP

Doreen Namara

What you need to know:

  • The EACOP is a planned 1,443km pipeline that will be constructed from the Albertine Graben in Western Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania.

On July 4, the media reported that the East African Crude oil Pipeline company (EACOP) had officially applied for the construction licence.

The EACOP is a planned 1,443km pipeline that will be constructed from the Albertine Graben in Western Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania.

The EACOP project developers include TotalEnergies (62 per cent shareholding), the Ugandan and Tanzanian governments (15 per cent shareholding each) and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (8 per cent shareholding).

 At peak production, the pipeline will transport 216,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields in Uganda.

 If constructed, the pipeline will be the longest electrically-heated crude oil pipeline in the world. Construction of the pipeline is expected to commence in 2023

The application of the licence is the requirement under the section 56(1) of the Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production Act 2013.

Section 57 of the same Act also mandates the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in consultation with the Petroleum Regulatory Authority to process the application for the licence in not later than 180 days after the receipt of the application.

This means that, if approved, the oil pipeline construction licence will be ready in December and construction of the pipeline can kick off.

However, it is prudent that government first addresses the social, economic, environmental, biodiversity and climate change risks before the approval of the construction licence.

On November 6, 2020, four civil society entities from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania filed a case in court against some of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project proponents.

The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also filed an application for a temporary injunction to stop the EACOP project from commencing or to maintain the status quo until the main application is heard and determined.

They argue that the project violates the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights as well as the African Convention on Conservation of Natural Resources.

The CSOs want the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to grant a permanent injunction against the respondents/developers from constructing the pipeline in protected areas in Uganda and Tanzania.

They also want court to give an order that the developers compensate all the project-affected persons (PAPs) among others.

The EACOP project poses immense social, economic, environmental, biodiversity and climate change risks. These include social impacts. A total of 13,000 households have been affected by the EACOP project in Uganda and Tanzania. The households’ land is being compulsorily acquired for the project. Also, because of the over three-years’ delay in compensating the affected people and use of 2018 and 2019 cut-off dates to stop the families from using their land to grow perennial food and cash crops, the households have suffered reduced incomes, food scarcity, psychosocial distress, school drop-outs, and abuse of their cultural rights among others.

In the long-term, community and public expenditure on health, climate change crises and others could increase because of the EACOP.  Further, air pollution, oil spills and others will worsen community health.

Important to note is that the EACOP is set to affect forests, national parks, game reserves, lakes, rivers, wetlands and others in Uganda and Tanzania. In 2017, the World Wildlife Fund noted that the EACOP will affect 2,000km2 of protected areas and will fragment habitats for elephants.

These protected areas are habitats for internationally-recognised endangered species. For instance, Bugoma forest hosts more than 600 chimpanzees while wetlands are important bird catchment areas.

All in all, as governments of Uganda and Tanzania review the application for the construction licence for the proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline they should be keen about immense impacts posed by the pipeline.

 Doreen Namara is the Programme Legal Assistant Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)