UGANDA: TOTAL E&P-UGANDA PLEDGES TO ADHERE TO BIO-DIVERSITY PROTECTION AT OIL EXPLORATION SITES

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Matting Uganda kob at Murchison Falls National Game Park

“We don’t want to damage any important feature of the park. Where we have disturbed the environment, we shall try and restore it to its original state. That is why wells like Jobi 4 you have just seen have been fully restored. You wouldn’t know a well has been sunk there at all”

NWOYA-UGANDA: “Do you know that I can arrest you now for urinating outside a gazetted place in Murchison falls National Game Park?” a Game Ranger said to me as I attempted to ease myself by the nearby bush at the entrance of Murchison Falls National Park. I was stunned by this development. All I could do in this circumstance was to simply plead with the Ranger manning the Tangi Gate of the Park that I was really sorry for the offence and that I didn’t know it was an offense to do so.

Two of my colleagues join in to plead for me and the ranger eventually relented after learning that we were actually journalists on a visit to the park and were waiting for our hosts from Total E&P.

It was still 07.30 am (about 04.30 GMT) on Wednesday, March 24, 2019, when a group of about twelve journalists under their umbrella organization, the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) arrived at the gate ready to join a team from the giant oil company, Total E&P, who were supposed to take us on a guided tour of their exploration sites inside the park.

Total E&P started prospecting for oil in the park in 2012 after acquiring some shares from Tallow Uganda Ply Limited to operate the “Tilenga” project.

Tilenga symbolizes the joint venture by three partners; CNOOC Uganda Limited, Total E&P Uganda and Tallow Uganda Ply Limited (Tallow oil). These companies are developing Uganda’s Hydrocarbon/oil resources.

It is the project name adopted by the three companies for the development of petroleum production facilities in Block 1 and the Northern part of the Block 2 located in Nwoya and Buliisa districts in Uganda. The name ‘Tilenga’ is derived from the two local names for the Uganda Kob (Antelope) called ‘Til’ in Lwo and ‘Engabi’ in Lunyoro.

There are a total of forty wells sunk by the company in the park where each well covers an average of one hundred meters square. One particular well we visited is named ‘Jobi 4’, drilled on August 5, 2012 but the area was restored on May 30, 2017.

Briefing us before we entered the park from the gate, the Environment and Bio-diversity officer at Total E&P, Mr. Andrew Damba, says although they were drilling oil wells inside the park, they don’t want to damage the bio-diversity of the park.

He says they will avoid damaging some key features of the park like destroying the Nile River and Albert Lake delta and instead of destroying the delta, they will drill horizontal line, two meters under the river bed and lay therein pipes to transport crude oil extracted to the Central Processing Plant in expected to be built in Hoima district. Other areas they will avoid are antelopes’ matting ground and the wallow, where animals go to cool themselves and drink water.

“We don’t want to damage any important feature of the park. Where we have disturbed the environment, we shall try and restore it to its original state. That is why wells like Jobi 4 you have just seen have been fully restored. You wouldn’t know a well has been sunk there at all”, says Mr. Bamba.

We were able to locate the Jobi 4 well with the help of a Global Positioning System (GPS), seven hundred meters away from the main road. You wouldn’t know a well had been sunk there except for the mark-stone. The grassland is as natural as that of its surrounding area.

Some of the rules in this park includes: ‘no littering the park with empty water bottles, visitors must move in single files and no getting out of the vehicle before the rangers are out and boarding your vehicle before the rangers do so’.

The first time I visited this park was in 1967 as a primary school child where we saw animals like elephants for the first time. In this particular trip I realized that government could actually re-locate more animals here because the park is big enough to accommodate more animals. I never saw animals like lions this time.

 

 

 

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