CSOs ask the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) not to approve the report since it was undertaken by an unregistered environmental practitioner contrary to the law.
Civil Society Organizations (in Uganda) have asked the National Environment Management Authority not to approve the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project on grounds that it was conducted by an unregistered environmental practitioner (as per requirements of the law).
Under their umbrella body - Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas (CSCO), civil society organizations, argue that the use of an unregistered environmental practitioner has potential to invalidate the report. In a press statement issued in November 2019, CSOs advised National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to probe whether RSK Limited is a recognized entity for conducting ESIAs in Uganda.
"RSK Limited which conducted the ESIA is not a recognized entity for undertaking Environmental and Social Impact Assessments in Uganda. This is contrary to section 111 of the National Environment Act, 2019 and Regulation 16 of the National Environment (Conduct and Certification of Environmental Practitioners) Regulations, 2003," CSOs empathized in a statement.
However, the report itself notes that the study was undertaken by Total East Africa Midstream BV - the interim developer for the crude oil pipeline.
"As stakeholders in the sector, we believe that, the issue of the eligibility of RSK Limited to undertake environmental and social impact assessments in Uganda go to the root of the process and therefore recommend that NEMA should not approve the EACOP ESIA report until this is resolved," the statement reads in part.
CSOs further point out several flaws in the process of conducting the environmental and social impacts assessment for EACOP and subsequent public hearings. "Whereas the EACOP ESIA report identifies a number of risks or threats posed by the project, these are rated as insignificant irrespective of the magnitude of the threat," CSOs note in a statement.
For example, they argue, the report identifies in the Right of Way for the pipeline where critically endangered and endemic plant species which are on the IUCN Red List are found, but yet rates such impact as 'not significant' and as a result the mitigation measures proposed are inadequate.
CSOs cite the interim developer as another irregularity in the ESIA process and report. The ESIA report indicates that Total East Africa Midstream BV is an interim developer of the EACOP project and not the actual developer.
"The law recognizes a developer who must fully bear the responsibilities and liabilities; and not an interim developer. Legally, when the actual developer is eventually incorporated, they will not be bound by commitments made before incorporation, unless expressly provided and assigned in future agreements," CSOs explain in a statement.
They also want NEMA not to approve the ESIA report until the issue of an interim developer undertaking the ESIA instead of the actual developer is resolved and appropriate guarantees are made that when the actual developer is incorporated such developer will inherit all the commitments and obligations.
In the statement, CSOs further demand the impacts of the project are re-assessed and appropriate mitigation measures of the negative impacts are provided for. "Until, these legal issues are addressed, the whole process may be rendered null and void for being inconsistent with the laws of Uganda, the statement reads in part.