EACOP, agriculture, lions and lies

Elison Karuhanga

What you need to know:

“It is saddening to read these claims which are made without even the most basic fact checks.” 

Oil & Gas

This week, there was an article about EACOP (East African Crude Oil Pipeline) in the African Business Magazine, an influential magazine, under the heading ‘EACOP: Economic boon or environmental disaster’.

The theme was: notwithstanding any economic benefits, the project risks serious environmental and social disasters.

The article carried a fictitious claim, “EACOP will cross 230 rivers and several forest reservations, displacing around 100,000 people from their land. Its path crosses some of the world’s most important elephant, and lion reserves.

In traversing the Lake Victoria basin, relied on by millions for drinking water and food production, the project risks a devastating oil spill, placing vital water resources at                                                                                                          risk.”

Sadly, many anti-EACOP criticisms, like this one, are completely made up. For example, the claim that EACOP will “tear through 230 rivers” is completely fictitious.

In Uganda, EACOP will go through 10 districts, namely; Kikuube, Hoima, Kakumiro, Kyankwazi, Mubende, Gomba, Sembabule, Lwengo, Rakai, and Kyotera.

Ugandans know that most of these are water-stressed districts. It is also false that those districts have some of the world’s most “important lion and elephant reserves”. That is absolute fiction.

The same can be said on the Tanzanian side. There are no lion and elephant reserves and the pipeline certainly does not cross 230 rivers in Tanzania.

It took Uganda several years to select the pipeline route, and several studies to determine the route with the least impact on population and biodiversity.

Several studies were undertaken to refine the route even after the route was selected.

The anti-EACOP campaigners are trying to undo serious work with unserious soundbites that are manufactured and distributed on an industrial scale in the global press. It is also important to understand what the Lake Victoria basin includes.

Activists make it sound like there is no economic activity in this “basin”.

Kampala City, with a population of approximately 1.7 million people, is in the Lake Victoria basin. Jinja City is in the Lake Victoria basin.

The basin is full of all manner of economic activity and a buried pipeline won’t destroy our water sources.

It is saddening to read these claims about Uganda which are made without even the most basic fact checks.

I was recently hosted on an online forum with friends who oppose EACOP and one of their arguments was that the government of Uganda should focus on agriculture instead of oil.

However, agriculture too must be powered by energy; an agricultural revolution is only possible with available energy.

The United States of America and the Kingdom of Netherlands are some of the biggest food producers in the world, largely due to energy security. Refineries produce asphalt, which is used to pave roads thereby improving access to markets.

Refineries produce fertilizers which in turn improve yields.

Refineries produce diesel, which is used to power tractors and heavy machinery, for agro-processing. Opponents of our oil projects seem to prefer that we continue to import diesel and fertilizers, but a refinery in Uganda will significantly boost Uganda’s agricultural sector.

Oil and the agriculture sector are not competing ideas but rather complementary to one another.

EACOP provides a timely opportunity to finance the social and economic transformation of our society.

There may be reasons for Uganda not to produce oil and there may be arguments that advance those reasons, however, let us be frank, what is being advanced right now is propaganda, exaggerations, and lies.

If activists, especially those who double as politicians in Europe, are genuine in their cause, why do they resort to lies about Uganda and EACOP?

I believe it is because the truth is firmly in our corner.

The writer is an advocate and partner at Kampala Associated Advocates