Oil exploitation has less significance to the less privileged
What you need to know:
- The impact of fossil fuels exploitation has not only been felt in the Albertine rift but across many countries around the globe.
- The focus of the East African states should not be to front dirty energy fossils as an absolute engine for achieving sustainable energy and socio-economic development.
Between May 9 and May 11, seven East African states and their corporate partners hosted the 10th East African Petroleum Conference and Exhibition (EAPCE) in Kampala under the theme, “East Africa as a hub for investment in exploration and exploitation of petroleum resources for sustainable energy and socio-economic development”.
Whereas the conference sounds big in the minds of East Africans and the global community, there should not be much excitement about this, especially to the present or even future wellbeing of a common man. Oil and gas have come along with a series of negative impacts that only worsen the wellbeing of the host communities.
The impact of fossil fuels exploitation has not only been felt in the Albertine rift but across many countries around the globe.
The current practice is that oil corporates working with government go to communities, value their land and property, give an order that communities should only use the land for crops that last only three to six months to harvest, reject any future valuation beyond that cut-off date, and take years and years to fully compensate or resettle the affected persons and thus accelerating abuse of their rights to access to land and food hence pushing them into abject poverty.
This is what some communities that were affected by the oil-related projects, including refinery, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, the Central Processing Facility, and Hoima International Airport are still grappling with.
Oil exploitation by far does not fit into the sustainability formula.
It comes along with massive ecological disasters and yet with the Ugandan case, oil will only be exploited in 25 to 30 years.
The Albertine rift is home to 39 percent of Africa’s mammal’s species, 51 percent of African bird species, 19 percent of African amphibian species, 14 percent of Africa’s plants and reptile species and 79 threatened terrestrial vertebrates, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red data book listings.
The rift further hosts 60 percent of Uganda’s water bodies (lakes and rivers), 70 percent of Uganda’s protected areas, with seven out of the 10 national parks in Uganda, eight out of 15 forests, 12 wildlife reserves, 13 wild life sanctuaries, and five community wildlife areas.
These are the backbone of a more sustainable tourism industry that has supported the Ugandan economy for ages and risk extinction with the oil and gas exploitation through future oil spills, ecological footprints, altering animal migration routes, human wildlife conflicts, and abuse of laws for protection of environmental resources, including forests and other protected areas.
On the economic front, there is no miracle that will come along with oil with regard to employing local people.
While oil companies often make big promises about creating jobs for locals, available evidence indicates that the oil, gas and mining sectors only employ about 1 percent of Africa’s labour force.
Meanwhile, the continued investment in oil and gas stands to result in job losses in the agriculture, fishing, clean energy, tourism and other sectors. Thus the oil and gas exploitation by any stands will never match with agriculture, which employs 60 to 70 percent of Africa’s labour force.
Therefore, in this era of worsening climate change, the focus of the East African states should not be to front dirty energy fossils as an absolute engine for achieving sustainable energy and socio-economic development. Development that makes sense is one that is people-centred.
As Desmond Tutu once quoted, the time is ripe, “we can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow”.
Mr Rajab Yusuf Bwengye is the oil governance officer at NAPE –Friends of the Earth Uganda.