EACOP and its moral fibre

Elison Karuhanga

What you need to know:

The argument that EACOP will emit 34 million metric tonnes of CO2 is misleading; Uganda will produce 1.68 million metric tonnes from the whole oil project, not just EACOP

This week, some NGOs issued a “new” report built around allegations against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). There is nothing new in this report, it echoes the same tired dooms day slogans.

The report followed an article in these pages that alleged that EACOP is immoral and needs to be stopped. There is nothing immoral about EACOP and here is why:

It has become the norm for some in the international NGO community to make wild and unverified claims about EACOP. While it is tempting to engage in an exchange of creative fiction, it is not necessary, facts will suffice. For example, it is a fact that EACOP is a heated buried pipeline.

At certain points of this pipeline, heating stations will be above the ground and EACOP will be heated using solar power.

EACOP will be buried 6ft underground and covered with three to four layers of pipe. It will have fibre optic cables that help monitor heat, fluid flow and pipe pressure throughout the pipeline.

The argument that EACOP will emit 34 million metric tonnes of CO2 is misleading; Uganda will produce 1.68 million metric tonnes from the whole oil project, not just EACOP. This is almost a third of what we currently emit from deforestation.

The gas from the project will help provide alternatives for firewood and charcoal. One can only arrive at 34 million tonnes if it includes the emissions that will be created when the oil is utilised by consumers in the west.

This project is a rather modest project compared to the 9000 licences issued in America, the drilling in the Arctic and the 53 licenses in the North Sea issued by Norway or the coal plants fired up by Germany. Our modest project is aimed at fighting underdevelopment among some of the poorest people in the world.

It is claimed by these activists that 40 million people who rely on Lake Victoria will be denied water and their lives will be at risk. As a matter of fact, EACOP doesn’t pass through Lake Victoria.

It is buried 6ft deep under adjacent land and so the moral crusaders need not worry. Oil extraction in East Africa will not be the cause of Armageddon.

Another lie is that 200,000 people will be displaced by EACOP.

To put this in context, EACOP is a 1,443 km pipeline while the total road projects currently being undertaken in Uganda measure 1,900km. Where are the internally displaced people camps (IDPs) from road construction?

In Uganda, EACOP will be 296km long. That is only a few kilometres longer than the Kyenjojo-Kagadi-Hoima-Bulima-Masindi Road or the Olwiyo-Gulu-Acholi-Bur-Musingo road. Where are the hundreds of thousands of displaced people from those roads? The estimated number of people who will be affected are approximately 18,800 people. These are known as project affected persons (PAPs) and PAPs must be compensated, in accordance with the laws and international financial regulations. This compensation is being done in the most public and transparent fashion.

They  claim EACOP passes through Murchison Falls National Park. It does not. However, there will be oil activity in the park, drilling in particular.

Out of Murchison’s 3,900 km sq, oil activities will be in less than 2 km sq representing 0.05 per cent of the park. Prior to the decision to drill in the park,  studies were undertaken over many years; of the movement and patterns of all animals in the park including antelopes, elephants, giraffes, lions, frogs and even butterflies.

This was to ensure minimal impact of oil activities on the biodiversity of the park. All infrastructure in the park will be underground. The park has survived wars and will certainly endure oil activity.

EACOP is not an immoral project. It is not a project that seeks to displace people, destroy water for millions and kill animals. These claims are exaggerated or outright lies that have been given a lot of airtime. The lectures on the morality of EACOP are condescending and ignore the fact that any risks are mitigated not to mention outweighed by benefits that are needed by so many East Africans.

The writer is an advocate and partner at Kampala Associated Advocates