Oil & Gas: Use Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool To Save Fragile Ecosystems

By Patrick Edema

The world’s governments, through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), agreed on a set of 20 targets to help stop the loss, reduce the pressures on, and improve the state of global biodiversity.

These were known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (set in Aichi, Japan).

And in order to achieve them effectively, governments needed to implement action plans and strategies and this is where tools that show maps and spatial data, including the location of national parks, forests, and endangered species were developed to make governments planning for developments more sustainable without destroying the ecosystems.

One such tool that was developed for viewing and analyzing biodiversity information covered in the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT).

It is an innovative tool designed to facilitate access to a range of global and national data layers, such as protected area boundaries, biological information about habitat and species diversity indices, and key areas for biodiversity, which can be useful for research and conservation planning purposes.

The tool was a result of a groundbreaking conservation partnership among BirdLife International, Conservation International, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre and was made possible by a diverse set of data providers, users, and funders in governments, business and civil society from over 200 countries and territories.

With Uganda’s oil developments which are located in the Albertine grabben, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the African continent hosting 40% of Africa’s mammals, 50% of birds and about 20% of its amphibians and plants, the region also has more threatened and endemic species than any other region of Africa.

For instance, the 1443km EACOP project will negatively impact nearly 2,000 square kilometres of protected wildlife habitats. In Uganda, the pipeline will impact the Taala and Bugoma Forest Reserves, the latter home to large groups of Eastern Chimpanzees. Some 500 square kilometres of wildlife corridors for the Eastern Chimpanzee and African Elephant are likely to be severely degraded.

This underscores the relevance of oil companies and government to conserve the environment and protect critical ecosystem where the oil developments criss-cross through community land, national parks, water bodies, forest reserves, wetlands, and other different geographic zones.

Therefore, IBAT tool provides a basic risk screening on biodiversity through an interactive mapping tool that decision-makers are able to easily access and use this up-to-date information to identify biodiversity risks and opportunities within or close to a project boundary to protect sensitive ecosystem amidst oil activities in critical areas.

It also incorporates biodiversity considerations into key project planning and management decisions which include identifying potential investments, sitting an operation in a given area, developing action plans to manage for biodiversity risks and impacts, assessing risks associated which helps potential sourcing regions, and reporting on corporate biodiversity performance.

Some of the oil companies like Tullow manages the aspect of biodiversity within some regions. This company has developed a biodiversity management plan and uses Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) for accessing the information regarding the environment and biodiversity of the regions where it conducts its oil activities to ensure that the negative impacts on the environment are minimized by the application of Mitigation Hierarchy that meets the international standards on environment.

Therefore, the IBAT tool will help the government of Uganda in identifying critical biodiversity areas such as tourism sites like Murchison falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park, water resources wildlife species that will be threatened by the oil and gas projects, and ensure that they are protected from the related oil dangers.

 Patrick Edema, Environmental Engineer at AFIEGO


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