9 June 2004

Cameroon: The Road Passed, Development Followed

Infrastructure has been one of the major achievements of the pipeline project.

The situation cannot be best described than by the Divisional Officer for Minta, in the Upper Sanaga Division, Centre province. "Vehicles hardly came to Minta before the arrival of the pipeline; today, we find them fighting to overtake each other on the road." This is certainly the impression that is threading in many inhabitant of areas the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline has cut through. Of course, this could not have been otherwise, considering that infrastructure in general and roads in particular is the epicentre of the problems of Cameroonian localities.

Stakeholders in the project were quite aware of this as could be observed in the terms of contract between the Cameroon Oil Transportation Company, (COTCO) and the governments of Chad and Cameroon. Infrastructure falls within COTCO's Supplementary Compensation Programme. The programme recognises that the payment of individual compensation could not completely compensate for some project-related impacts. Reason: many resources are owned by communities not individuals; people in communities change the location of their fields; there is a general inconvenience to some communities during the project construction period; wild resources, such as fruit-bearing trees, edible insects and mushrooms, could not be completely compensated by an individual compensation approach; and the use of community land could be restricted in some ways after construction has been completed.

Against this backdrop, several roads have been graded and bridges constructed to facilitate movement. Many of the roads are farm-to-market. The grading of the 15-Km -road in Ngolkong I village in the Upper Sanaga Division has saved the population from the trouble of trekking to and from Nanga Eboko, their Divisional capital to sell their produce. The people of Bipindi and Mongue in the Ocean Division, South province tell the same story. The Mayor of Belel, Sorobai Joël is particularly appreciative of the 75 Km-road that has been transformed from a path to a national road. He expressed his feelings in the following words, "we say thanks to COTCO which has made it possible for us to have access to the Meiganga-Ngaoundere road through Touboro from where we can now conveniently evacuate our products."

One of the realisations that today calls for public interest is the project's used camps. In Belel, the inhabitants are eying it as a heritage hoping that COTCO would allow it for use by the people of the area. While appreciating the massive employment brought by the project, the village chief, Jaorou Abou Mohamadou expressed the wish that COTCO hands over the camp to them. "The pipeline has brought about the construction of a camp, employment of the local population, development of trade and many others, but we are waiting and hoping that COTCO hands over the beautiful camp it has constructed either to the population or to the administration", he said. In Dompta, COTCO realised one of the most spectacular compensations in collaboration with a local NON-Governmental Organisation. The NGO, Canal de Développement managed by Hon. Abdou Amidou helped in determining how much could be given to the population either individually or collectively. In collaboration with other NGOs, Canal de Développement made an inventory of all the trees by establishing their local and scientific names and classifying them in order of importance. "We classified them under fruit trees, medicinal trees and trees of current usage", Hon Abdou Amidou said, adding that, "the exercise helped COTCO to determine how much to give out as compensation to the population. In the zone where he worked, there was compensation that was linked to the road especially where houses were destroyed. Within this framework, the population was resettled particularly the villages of Bouka, Tenaroi and Ngaouin.

Perhaps the most remarkable stride of the pipeline is the telecommunication component which has been hatched in collaboration with the Cameroon government and now considered a veritable instrument of integration. It is a sub marine communication project piloted by SAT 3 of which Cameroon is partner. As described by the Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Antoine Zanga, the project is the result of long negotiations following the commitment of COTCO and TOTCO.

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