Topic Ref: Presentation on the level of oil development activities in the country: What needs to be done to avoid or minimize the social and economic effects of oil refinery, pipelines and oil activities in the country?
Currently, Uganda has over 6.5 billion barrels of confirmed commercial oil reserves. The government is also in the process of issuing more licenses for oil exploration to cover the remaining 60% of the gazetted areas for oil-areas that are not yet explored.
It should be noted that some of the oil discoveries are located in protected areas such as the Murchison Falls National Park, Kabwoya and Bugungu game reserves, areas around River Nile, Lake Albert and others. Regarding licensing for exploration, some of the new oil blocks under consideration include those covering areas of Queen Elizabeth, L. Edward, and L. George, Kazinga Channel, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mount Rwenzori forest and neighbouring areas of Greater Virunga.
It is therefore necessary that the planned oil production and new licenses are designed in a manner that does not endanger the rich biodiversity of the country. The government and CSOs need to work together to mobilize and empower the citizens to prepare and support the oil development activities that are equitable and promote social justice. Some of the urgent activities that require participation of citizens include the efforts to strengthen the environmental laws (NEA through amendments, EIA regulations, the UWA Act, NFA Act, the Water Act, the 1997 Environmental policy, the oil monitoring plans and SEA regulations and others.
The above processes if well managed, they will help to ensure that we get the right companies, sign and issue right licenses and agreements with companies, design and construct refineries and pipelines taking into account the rights and entitlements of citizens. Such as the right to a clean and healthy environment, the right to own and use land, the right to share revenues, the right to access timely and accurate information and others.
While Ugandans expect maximum benefits from oil, the available evidence indicates that no country in the world has ever succeeded to produce oil without maximum transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, lack of transparency is the biggest challenge facing Uganda today. Institutions of governance including UWA, NEMA, NFA, PAU, NOC, parliament, judiciary and others are weak or being weakened because of politics. On the other hand, different legal reforms that were started years back are yet to be completed and implemented. For example, for the last two or three years, NEMA and ministry of water and environment have failed to present environmental amendments to parliament for new laws, ministry of energy is yet to complete the local content policy and share the EIAs for both the refinery and pipelines. The public talk will mobilize the citizens to demand for the completion of the above processes.
Scope of the planned public talk
The planned public talk is intended to help the participants to share and appreciate the benefits and challenges of the current oil development processes in Uganda and beyond.
The talk will cover the following areas
• What does the government and companies plan to do to ensure that rich biodiversity areas are not affected by oil activities?
• Understand the dynamics of the planned pipelines from oil wells to the processing facilities and then to the export pipeline and refinery and their socio-economic implications.
• The terms and conditions of production licenses issued and how Ugandans can influence the processes.
• The process for compulsory acquisition of both private land and land from protected areas.
• The planned national content mechanisms and how relevant they are to conservation and citizens benefits.
• How Ugandans can influence the on-going environmental amendments and what the delays mean for conservation.