The oil industry, especially the exploration of oil, has destructive environmental impacts. Oil extraction involves several environmental pollution processes.
A United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2007 report indicates that oil and gas exploration impact on the environment in many negative ways by exposing it to oil leakages and spills, gas flaring, and deforestation as a result of the creation of access routes to new areas.
Gas flaring without temperature or emissions control pollutes the air and releases unacceptably high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The environmental pollution associated with oil exploration has serious implications for the survival of species in communities near oil reserves.
Oil spillage massively pollutes water bodies thereby threatening fisheries and reducing tourism, harming bird life and severely affecting ecological ocean life (UNCTAD 2007).
The environmental pollution caused by oil drilling also results in a destruction of livelihoods in local communities making it difficult for the present and future generations to make a living off of their land. Farming and fishing activities, the mainstay of these economies, literally grind to a halt with the exploration of oil.
The local traditional occupations will no longer be sustainable due to the destruction of the environment through oil explorations, the vulnerability and powerlessness of the local people, particularly women, will further put them in vulnerable positions.
First, whatever pittances are paid as compensation claims are usually paid to the men because of the status they hold in society either as land owners or heads of families. Secondly, no significant efforts are being made to develop alternative means of livelihood for them.
The young men and women of communities near oil reserves remain unemployed. It is noteworthy to say that jobs in the oil industry mostly go to well-paid expatriates and Ugandans from less marginalized parts of the country closest to the oil fields will get casual jobs which may only come when there is the need to clean oil spills or pipeline bursts.
One of the other disturbing effects of oil exploration on communities near oil reserves is its impact on cultural practices, specifically the ways in which otherwise benign cultural practices might be rendered problematic in the face of changes resulting from the discovery of oil.
A good case in point is the ways in which commercial sex work can increase with potentially more disastrous consequences in such communities.
Oil exploration leads to a decline in farming/fishing as viable economic ventures thus increasing the propensity for women to choose commercial sex work for income generating purposes.
In addition, the influx of foreign oil workers who are often paid large sums of money as expatriates makes the profession of commercial sex work potentially more lucrative in such communities.
Oil and gas drilling is a dirty business that has serious consequences for our eco-systems and communities. Drilling projects operate around the clock, disrupting wildlife, water sources, human health and recreation.
The oil and gas industry is encroaching upon too many of our nation’s unspoiled bio-diversity. And the consequences could be devastating for the environment and local communities.
Oil and gas extraction is a menace to wildlife. Loud noises, human movement and vehicle traffic from drilling operations can disrupt avian species’ communication, breeding and nesting. Big oil spills are known killers of wildlife.
Just think back to the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The resulting spill covered 68,000 square miles of sea surface and killed approximately 1 million coastal and offshore seabirds, 5,000 marine mammals and 1,000 sea turtles.
Smaller spills, including of other substances in the oil extraction process, don’t always make the headlines but can also be dangerous. During oil extraction on land, drilling fluids are injected into the well for lubrication.
These oil-based fluids known as "mud" are supposed to be captured in lined pits for disposal, but they’re often spilled and splashed around the drilling site.
These spills can have long-term environmental impacts and devastating effects on animals through direct contact, inhalation and ingestion of toxic chemicals.
In spite of these risks, the government of Uganda has continued to open game parks like the Queen Elizabeth national park and water sources like Lake Albert to drilling.
Oil and gas production are among the main culprits of air pollution as one of the world’s biggest killers according to the United Nations.
When fossil fuels are burned by power plants, automobiles and industrial facilities, they generate toxic gases. Breathing this air can trigger respiratory problems such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, developmental issues and even cancer.
The health risks from oil and gas extraction are not limited to air pollution. The drilling method of “fracking” is known for contaminating drinking water sources with chemicals that lead to cancer, birth defects and liver damage.
The controversial method injects a mixture of water and chemicals into rock formations to release oil and gas. As a result, it generates huge volumes of wastewater with dangerous chemicals that can leak to lakes, agricultural land and underground aquifers.
Infrastructure built for oil and gas extraction can leave behind radical impacts on the land. The construction of roads, facilities and drilling sites known as well pads requires the use of heavy equipment and can destroy big chunks of pristine wilderness. The damage is often irreversible.
Development of oil and gas complexes can cause serious and long-term damage to land, including stripping the environment of vegetation increasing erosion which can lead to landslides and flooding disturbing the land’s ground surface and seriously fragmenting unspoiled wildlife habitats.
The Ugandan government should rethink its practice of leasing public lands to the fossil fuel industry. They should also regulate leaks and deliberate discharge of toxic wastes on our lands and water sources.
Ultimately, the goal should be to install renewable energy projects at appropriate “low-impact” sites on community lands to accelerate the country’s transition from dirty to clean energy.
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