Before the development stage of oil in the Tilenga project, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) needs to approve the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report (ESIA).
To approve the report, Section 22 of the National Environment Regulation 1998 stipulates that a public hearing must be awarded to the people in the concerned area to express their views on implications of oil in the region.
Last week, the people of Buliisa District had their chance to scrutinise the Tilenga Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report.
The Tilenga project is planned to have 250 Kilometres flow lines which will transport crude oil within the oil fields. It will also have a 110Km feeder pipeline which will transport the processed crude oil from the Central Processing Facility in Buliisa to the export hub and refinery in Kabaale.
According to Total Exploration - the developer of the project, they are acquiring land that will house the infrastructure.
However, participants from the hearing expressed concerns about land compensation arguing that they were not consulted during the ESIA.
The participants raised alarms on the possibility of timely compensation of land and queries into how orphan land - land without an individual owner - would be compensated.
"The issues of compensation have not been dealt with. We are trying to look around to see how these delays will be dealt with. Mitigation factors to curb such delays should be handled," one of the participants advised.
Mr Dickens Kamugisha, the chief executive officer, Africa Institute of Energy, said there is an urgent need of a law that will force compliance of the developer to the resettlement plan.
Citing Kabale refinery resettlement plan, he said over 70,000 households which were displaced are now living under poor conditions.
"There is currently no law that guides the conduct and implementation action plans. Communities in the oil regions are affected by different things. I would recommend that in consultation with the communities, the resettlement plans need to be complete and approved," he said appealing to NEMA not to approve the ESIA until there is a guarantee of compliance to resettling the community members.
The Tilenga project is a circumference of the Jobi-Rii, Ngiri, Wahrindi, Kigogole, Gunya, Nsoga and Kasemene oil fields in Buliisa and Nwoya Districts.
Mr Enoch Bigirwa, the Bagungu Community Association Chairperson criticised the ESIA, saying it did not recognise the Bagungu as a tribe in the Northern Albertine Graben region.
However, the Bagungu have been in the Buliisa District and have been recognised by the community as a tribe.
He also asked that the Tilenga project be renamed to Bugungu.
In response to the public, Ms Marion Adengo, head of social affairs Total Exploration, said that many of the raised concerns were covered in the ESIA report urging the people to read the document.
Ms Adengo acknowleged the suggestions especially those based on delays in land compensation.
"For compensation delays, we have gone through a stage and we are trying to see how we can narrow it down. Plus there were some other good suggestions which were here. So when NEMA gets back to everybody, we shall be able to move," Ms Adengo explained.
She also urged those who claimed were not consulted during the report to wait until planning for the passage of infrastructure is completed.
To have the project renamed Bugungu- Tilenga, Ms Adengo explained would call for engagement of the three Kingdoms; Acholi, Alur and Bagungu. She, however, advised against it, saying naming it Bugungu would be seen as discriminatory and compel the other two tribes to ask that the project takes up their names as well.
The project name 'Tilenga' which means antelope, Ms Adengo says, was reached at with the aim of being neutral since it cuts across all tribes and is beneficial to the entire country.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) last week held a public hearing for the Environmental and Social impact Assessment report 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.