Globally, oil and gas activities are known for its degrading and destructive effect on the environment. In Uganda, there are already fears that oil and gas activities in the Albertine graben could destroy the fragile ecosystem. This calls for increased close monitoring and early mitigation measures to be put in place.
District leaders from the oil rich Albertine graben want government to establish a special fund dedicated to helping district environment officers to routinely monitor the impact of oil and gas activities on the environment and undertake early mitigation measures.
Bulisa district chairman Mr Agaba Simon Kinene said, "As a district, we are implementing oil and gas industry at zero budget, yet we are decentralized," he said.
The oil production phase, is expected to generate a lot of hazardous or non- hazardous waste. Therefore, district environment officers are expected to take a center in ensuring that all the oil waste generated and pollution are properly managed.
As Uganda prepares to started oil production, a lot o is preparing for District Environment Officers (DEOs), have often complained of lack of facilitation to monitor oil and gas activities.
Mr Philip Ngongaha, the District Environment Officer, Bulisa was bolder and called for the establishment of a fund to help them monitor oil and gas activities. He said currently, district environment officers lack facilitation to do their work. "We need a special fund to facilitate oil and gas monitoring," Ngongaha argues.
He argued that the fund would help the environment officers acquire modern equipment for monitoring. "You cannot expect an environment officer to monitor noise pollution using naked eyes. We require modern equipment," he said.
The leaders were speaking at an oil and gas conference organized by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala last month.
He argues that given the environmental concerns that are expected to come with the petroleum sector, it is important to allocate enough resources to monitor any changes in the environment and make early mitigation measures. "Local environment committees provided for under in the law but are not in existence," he said.
"I wish to concur, we need a special fund for environmental officers, to monitor these activities otherwise, we shall keep taking when the environment is being depleted" Paul Mulindwa, the Program Coordinator, Kibaale District Civil Society Organizations Network said.
Presenting a paper on the impact of oil and gas on local government, Nwoya District Chairman Mr Patrick Okello Oryema wondered how district environment officers monitor oil and gas activities without being facilitated to do their work.
However Ms Aijuka Sarah, the Environmental Monitoring Officer in charge of Oil and Gas at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) explained that the authority is already drafting the National Oil Spill Management Regulations and contingent plan.
"We already have oil waste, but we are still lacking regulations on how to handle the oil waste," Ms Aijuka explained. Aijuka said the environmental watchdog operates on an assumption the district environment officers have money for environmental activities, an assumption that she said won't be held anymore but rather consider the lack of finances and see how best to have the people facilitated.