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Communities over money? multibillion-dollar oil pipeline set to get underway in East Africa

French energy giant Total and its partner China National Offshore Oil Corporation plan to exploit oil reserves in Lake Albert in Uganda constructing a 1,443-km (896-mile) pipeline to neighbouring Tanzania for export.

The planned multibillion-dollar oil pipeline will be built across East Africa and could spell disaster for local communities.

Human rights groups yesterday warned about the potential massive loss of land and livelihoods if oil firms don’t listen up and change the course of action.

Yet, the warnings seem not to find an answer, as the oil firms involved in the $3.5 billion East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) have failed to fully address concerns raised by many of the 12,000 families who are expected to lose land due to the project.

Representative image. Image credit WardheerNews

The families, most of whom farm and rear livestock for the only way of living, say they fear unfair resettlement, low compensation and damage to their rich and diverse environment.

“Time and time again ... we heard people talk about their land and their fears that they would not receive fair value for what they may lose,” declared Joy Akoli Atine of Global Rights Alert, co-author of a study that sees by six charities involved.

“There was a very limited understanding amongst affected communities about the land valuation and compensation process,” she admitted in a virtual news conference.

“Total and its partners must take immediate steps to clear up any and all confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the land valuation and compensation process.”

Total declared that it had engaged with the charities on their reports and welcomed some of their findings, while disputing others, including allegations related to unfair compensation and a lack of engagement with locals.

“The project was designed with the overarching concern of minimising and mitigating the impacts on local communities and in particular the need to relocate households,” \ a company statement reads.

Yet, the vague and unsatisfying big giant’s answer seems the usual fate we are used to experiencing: money over people.

“Compensation is proposed to meet full replacement value. Other accompanying measures such as the provision of replacement housing and access to livelihood programs are planned once the project moves into the implementation phase.”

An example that shows the potential natural disaster the pipeline could cause carrying crude oil. Image credit Reuters

Total added that it was making “considerable efforts” to engage residents in the face of project delays, adding that a grievance mechanism existed to ensure complaints were somehow heard.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation preferred not to respond.

Specifically, from 2006 afterwards, when a huge commercial quantity of oil was discovered in the Lake Albert basin in western Uganda, the oil companies have been involved in exploration activities with the construction of the pipeline expected to begin in May this year.

The pipeline is supposed to carry crude oil from Hoima in Uganda to the Chongoleani peninsula near Tanga port in Tanzania - making it the world’s longest electrically heated pipeline in the world.

Charities, on the other hand, claim that oil wells will be dug on the shore of Lake Albert, and in several natural reserves and protected areas, including the Murchison Falls National Park.

Indeed, the pipeline will run beside Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake. It is supposed that it will be buried to minimise environmental impacts, with some facilities set above ground, designed to ensure minimal environmental and social impact, an EACOP said, but it seems that we won’t fully know until it’s done.


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