By Sandra Atusinguza
Recently Uganda joined the world to celebrate the Environment day in Mbale district under the theme “Beat plastic pollution” with focus on alternatives to avoidable single use of polythene bags known as ‘Buvera’ which has become a menace to the environment .
This is a great milestone to environmental conservation once achieved, the rate at which our environment is polluted is very high with increased industrialization and poor waste disposal of garbage and plastics which end up in water channels, trenches, wet lands as they have currently been known as “waste lands” in most towns country wide among other factors. This calls for countrywide mass sensitizations on usage and disposal. There have been efforts to ban plastic bag use or recycle it for the past 4years but it has not been fully achieved to date hence environment at stake.
Previous reports also indicate poor waste management and disposal of oil and gas waste in the Albertine graben where at Ngara1 site which was managed by Tullow oil, the solid waste was heaped on the ground and covered with black polythene material while the liquid waste was kept in large pits lined on the sides with black polythene, some other pits were covered with iron sheets, and other open hence raising fears of possible air pollution a potential health risks to residents.
Communities especially in Buliisa district have also expressed fears of the oil and gas hazardous waste could damage the environment in case of spills along the way as it is transported to the dumping and waste management sites. In 2009, Heritage Oil illegally buried truckloads of oil waste in Nwoya county, in the then Amuru district, little did the country know that it was the beginning of a bigger ‘oil waste management crisis’. Five years later, the oil frontline districts of Buliisa and Nwoya continue to witness other incidents of oil waste dumping.
To add on that, with the current production phase with many development infrastructures set like the oil pipelines, C.P.F, critical oil roads among other developments, areas where oil and gas activities are taking places could be affected by climate change due to emissions from waste causing soil and air pollution thus lowering the quality of air, acidic rains due to the presence of carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and sulfur oxide which pollute
Despite governments’ effort through NEMA to authorizing petroleum waste management firms like Enviro serve, White Nile and Luwero industries and enacting environmental and bio diversity tools like Albertine graben environmental sensitive atlas, Environmental monitoring plan for the Albertine graben, among other actions several laws must be strict enough on waste management and pollution with incentives and penalties based on enforcement of legislation, polices to discourage bad practices on environment in the oil and gas sector. More community awareness and sensitizations efforts need on oil and environment so as to enable them hold duty bearers and key stakeholders in the oil and gas industry accountable.
Atusinguza Sandra - AFIEGO –FIELD OFFICER