Government has accepted to hold two public hearings over the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the Tilenga oil project.
The public is hereby notified that the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) has been requested by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to hold public hearings for the Environmental and Social impact Assessment report for the proposed Tilenga project, a statement released by PAU last evening reads in part.
The name Tilenga is derived from two local names for the Uganda Kob (Antelope) which is called "Til" in Acholi and "Engabi" in Runyoro-Rutoro.
NEMA received the ESIA from Total E&P Uganda and Tullow Uganda operations Pty Ltd for the proposed Tilenga project.
Under the Tilenga project, the Government through its licensed oil companies has discovered commercially viable oil deposits north of Victoria Nile in Murchison falls national park and south of Victoria Nile in Buliisa district.
The project includes jobi-Rii, Gunya, Ngiri, Kasemene, wahrindi, Nsoga, Kigogole oil fields.
In 2016, Government granted petroleum production licenses to Total Exploration and Production Uganda B.V (TEPU) and Tullow Uganda operations Pty Ltd (TUOP) to develop and operate upstream petroleum facilities in the Albertine graben.
TEPU was granted production licenses for Ngiri, Jobi-Rii, Gunya fields while TUOP was granted production licenses in Mputa,Nzizi,Waraga, Kasemene, Wahrindi, Kigogole-Ngara,Nsoga and Ngege fields.
The development of six fields namely Ngiri, Jobi-Rii, Gunya, Kigogole and Kasemene-Wahrindi within Buliisa and Nwoya districts will form part of the Tilenga project.
The Tilenga project will be funded by TEPU, TUOP, CNOOC Uganda Ltd and Uganda National Oil Company.
According to the project documents which oil in Uganda has seen, the Tilenga project is composed of well pads, a central processing facility and other associated facilities, production and injection network of pipelines and cables, Bugungu airstrip, Tangi operation camp, a water abstraction system, victoria Nile crossing, river Nile pipe crossing and some roads.
The project also includes temporary construction camps, construction support base, a logistical check point in Masindi and borrow pits.
Oil in Uganda reported this week how the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is seeking public comments on ESIA for the Tilenga project.
A public hearing will be a forum in which relevant stakeholders and developers will be brought together to express opinions and offer suggestions on the proposed project to influence the decision making process during the ESIA approval.
The hearings will be held in accordance with regulation 22 of the National Environment impact Assessment regulations 1998, the statement added.
A public notice released by the NEMA Executive director Dr Tom Okurut informed the public that the outcomes of the public review will contribute towards making a final decision of the project in accordance with the Environment impact assessment regulations.
The notice asked members of the public to submit their comments by November 9th 2018.
Concern of CSOs
However, 13 CSOs demanded for public hearings over the project.
"It is through public hearings that oil host and affected communities, the poor, marginalised and illiterate will be able to make comments on the ESIA to enable NEMA make a decision based on the collective input of all concerned stakeholders" the CSOs said in a joint letter to the NEMA executive Director Dr Tom Okurut.
The CSOs said they are concerned that in the notice, NEMA did not indicate that it will call for public hearings before making any decision on the ESIA.
The concerns of the CSOs are contained in a letter dated October 17, 2018 which was submitted to NEMA by the AFIEGO Chief Executive Director Dickens Kamugisha on behalf of the CSOs.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations of 1998 mandate NEMA to call for a public hearing where there is controversy or where a project has trans boundary impacts, the CSOs argued.
"We need public hearings to ensure effective public consultations that can build consensus not only among Ugandan stakeholders but also stakeholders across the borders who are likely to be affected by the Tilenga project" said Kamugisha, a lawyer.
Gloria Ssebikari, a senior communication officer at the the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), PAU will conduct two public hearings this month.
"The public is further notified that there will be two public hearings held on 12th November 2018 at Buliisa district headquarters and on 15th November 2018 at Gotapwoyo primary school, Gptapwoyo subcounty, Nwoya district from 9am to 5 pm" the notice reads in part.
The notice indicated that public comments should be addressed to the presiding officer at PAU.
Local communities fear that oil developments in an ecologically fragile area in Murchison falls national park and around the Nile delta could potentially affect the environment.
The national park is one of Uganda's leading tourism destinations and it hosts thousands of wild endangered species of animals, birds, insects and reptiles.
River Nile waters are shared by Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt and DRC.
The CSOs have asked government to establish a multi-stakeholder committee comprised of actors from government, the private sector, religious and cultural groups, CSOs, the academia and others to act as an independent multidisciplinary oversight body to promote compliance with environmental conservation tools such as EIA, SEA, ESIA.
The CSOs have further asked NEMA to delay any decision to issue a certificate of approval for the Tilenga ESIA until the new environmental laws and regulations are put in place by government and parliament.
This will help the country to stop engaging in oil activities based on a weak and outdated environmental legal framework, the petition added.
The CSOS that petitioned include the Africa institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), Guild Presidents Forum on Oil Governance (GPFOG), Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG), South Western Center for Policy and Advocacy (SOWIPA), World Voices Uganda (WVU), Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE), Greater, Green Organisation Africa (GOA)-Masindi, Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA)-Hoima, Kakindo Orphans Care-Buliisa, Girl Power foundation-Kasese, Friends of Nature-Kasese.
Fears of Environmental damage
The study released by the worldwide fund for nature (WWF) and the civil society Coalition on oil and gas (CSCO) titled "Safeguarding People & nature in the East African Crude Oil (EACOP) Pipeline," expresses fears of a possible pollution of fresh water pollution in the Lake Victoria basin.
According to a study, the East African crude oil pipeline will cross Kagera River, the largest river flowing into Lake Victoria.
"The probability of leakage and spillage within the Lake Victoria watershed area is even greater given it is an active seismic area" the report stated.
The report was released in July 2017 as a preliminary Threat Analysis (PTA) of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
The Crude oil covering 1,445 km will transport crude oil from Hoima district in Western Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania.
The Pipeline project was commissioned by President Museveni And his Tanzanian counterpart John Pombe Magufuli in November 2017,.
By Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro