Save Bugoma Central Forest Reserve From Destruction

By Patrick Edema

It was reported in media that the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) issued a certificate of approval that allows the destruction of 21.5 square miles of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in the midwestern region for sugarcane growing.

The issuance of the NEMA certificate to the sugarcane company came amid protests from the National Forestry Authority (NFA) who’s case is still pending before the court of appeal and the environmental activities who are fighting for the protection of biodiversity.

The Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, which covers 41,144 hectares, is the largest remaining block of natural tropical rainforest along the Albertine Rift Valley. The forest lies between Budongo forest and Semliki, thereby playing an enormous role in preserving wildlife migratory corridors.

It is also home to about 500 chimpanzees, which is 10% of the Ugandan chimpanzee population, making the forest a chimpanzee sanctuary. In addition, among other primates, Bugoma hosts a population of Ugandan mangabeys, which are endemic to this forest and are therefore a unique treasure.

Further, over 221 bird species have been recorded in Bugoma forest. Bugoma forest is also the single-most important tourist destination, outside the known national parks and wildlife reserves.

And with an ever-growing deforestation rate in Uganda that caused the loss of 63% of forested cover in only three decades, the life of the people in Bunyoro and in Uganda at large is more and more endangered. As forests are degraded or cut down, animal habitats are destroyed, resulting in increased human-wildlife conflicts.

In addition, water resources reduce as forests play an important role in water provisioning; this increases water stress. Further, soil fertility reduces, thereby affecting agriculture on which over 60% of Uganda’s population solely depend to meet their household needs.

In addition, conversion of Bugoma forest into a sugarcane plantation or any other land use that does not promote conservation undermines the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) among others which Uganda has ratified.

It will also undermine Uganda’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases through commitments made under Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and as well as the country’s commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Finally, since 1986, the Government of Uganda has pursued a policy of economic recovery and poverty reduction whilst observing sustainable management of the environment and natural resources. Currently, forest and environmental conservation is an integral component of the National Development Plan (NDP) III and the Uganda Green Growth Development Strategy.

This is due to the role forests and the environment at large play in supporting Uganda’s major economic activities such as agriculture, tourism and others. Therefore, destroying Bugoma forests that at the expense of sugarcane growing should be avoided for the wellbeing of the people in Bunyoro and Ugandans at large. It is paramount that the existing Bugoma Forest central reserve is protected and conserved.

Patrick Edema

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Land Acquisition For Oil And Gas Projects: Project Affected Persons Will Be Adequately Compensated

By Ali Ssekatawa

The oil and gas sector in Uganda is at a critical stage.  The commercial negotiations which will impact both the profitability and the sector’s contribution to inclusive development are in the final stages.  The infrastructure required to commercially produce the Country’s 6 billion barrels of oil and gas resources has been clearly defined.  This includes the precise location for the various infrastructure.

This infrastructure includes well pads and flowlines, crude oil pipelines, central processing facilities, a refinery, base camps and access roads, among others. These facilities are being set up for four key projects; the Tilenga and Kingfisher projects (for development of the fields and production of the crude oil) together with the Refinery and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline projects (the commercialization projects).

Since Uganda’s oil and gas resources are onshore, the above facilities will be developed on private land acquired from the communities. Additionally, some of the required land belongs to government entities. The said land is acquired after prior, fair and adequate consent and/or compensation of the communities affected.

The halt in field activities for land acquisition for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project (and likewise for the Kingfisher and Tilenga projects) as a result of scaling down of project-related activities and later the COVID-19 pandemic has caused anxiety among the Project Affected Persons (PAPs). 

In addition, false reports wrongly state that PAPs have been stopped from using their land while others have been forcefully evicted without compensation.  There have also been allegations that the PAPs were made to sign compensation forms without adequate information.

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda acknowledges the delay in the compensation process; however, no PAP has been evicted or stopped from using their land as has been portrayed.

The 1,443km EACOP will transport Uganda’s crude oil from Kabaale in Hoima district to Tanga in Tanzania, for export to the international market.

It will be buried to a depth of about 1 metre below the ground for all its length. In Uganda, the EACOP will cover 296km, through ten (10) districts (Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Gomba, Sembabule, Lwengo, Kyotera and Rakai). 

The EACOP will be laid in a 30 metres corridor and the land for this has already been identified by Government. The Kingfisher project covers Kikuube and Hoima districts, whereas the Tilenga project covers Buliisa and Nwoya Districts. 

All the PAPs for the projects have been identified, and the affected property assessed and valued.   During the assessment and evaluation exercise, all PAPs (and their spouses) are required to sign on their assessment forms to confirm that what has been captured is indeed what has been taken stock of by the valuers and assessors.

This is done in the presence of local leaders, district leaders, Government representatives including staff of PAU. There is always a translator from the community who interprets the information in the local language to the PAPs. All PAPs are given a copy of the assessment form. 

The information captured is then compiled into a Valuation Report that states the compensation award for each PAP.  Compensation rates for crops and structures are determined by the District Land Boards while land rates are determined based on market value. All these are based on prevailing market rates for the financial year in question.

The PAPs will be compensated as per the valuation reports approved by the Chief Government Valuer (CGV), Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. On approval of the Valuation reports, the compensation amounts are individually disclosed to the PAPs in the presence of their spouses.

A cutoff date is announced after taking stock of affected land and properties. The announcement is meant to inform PAPs that any and all improvements made on the land following that period would not be eligible for compensation. A cut off date is essential for any project to progress from assessment to actual compensation.

Following the assessment exercise, the PAPs were advised to continue with the cultivation of seasonal crops, but any new permanent structures or long-term crops would not be compensated.  The PAPs would also be allowed to harvest all their crops and salvage any materials after compensation. Each PAP is aware of the boundaries of the project land and as such free to utilize the land outside the project footprint as he/she wishes.

The PAPs are only required to vacate project land following receipt of full compensation for said land. Currently, the only PAPs that have been requested to vacate project land are those in Tilenga Development Project RAP 1 and Kingfisher Development Area (KFDA) RAP 1 both of whom have been fully compensated and their resettlement houses completed.

All PAPs that have not been compensated remain in possession of their land and are free to keep utilizing it, within limits. Several livelihood restoration programmes in agriculture, business, financial literacy and skilling are also implemented as part of the package to support PAPs transition.

The PAPs are therefore allowed to utilize their land post-cut-off date announcement with the understanding that new developments will not be compensated, but crops can be harvested and any materials salvaged. All land surrounding and outside the project area is however not affected by the cut off dates.

It is therefore prudent to note that nobody has been evicted from their land.  After compensation, a notice to vacate will be issued with timelines within which the affected persons must move/ relocate from the project land. The PAPs are therefore encouraged to continue using their land as the process for compensation is fast-tracked by Government.

The delays occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges such as absentee landlords are regrettable;   Preparations are in high gear to resume the compensation processes within a month’s time subject to the Ministry of Health Standard operating procedures. The PAU will ensure that all PAPs are promptly, fairly and adequately compensated

Ali Ssekatawa is the Director Legal and Corporate Affairs at Petroleum Authority Uganda.

OPINION: Oil & Gas Graduates Should Be Creative

By Paul Kato

The media recently reported about oil and gas graduates petitioning the parliament over unemployment yet they are supposed to be creative.

Since 2014 over 500 graduates have graduated and only 50 graduates are employed in the oil and gas sector. This means that many of them are jobless.

Graduates need to be creative because oil and gas jobs sector is not going to be enough for graduates trained in oil and gas-related courses.

The oil and gas is expected to provide only 190,000 jobs to the graduates, therefore, people need to be creative because the jobs are not going to be enough for them.

In addition to that, the graduates should think beyond outside the box because oil and gas is expected to be extracted for a few years. This means that they need to see oil at the smaller picture.

Ugandans should learn from the COVID-19 pandemic period because many people who were working in the offices resorted to other sectors agricultural sector for survival.

For instance, people started piggery projects, poultry and planting perennial crops like banana and coffee which requires less labour.

Therefore graduates need to be creative if not, many graduates are going to be at risk of unemployment. They will also put their brains and resources to waste.

It should be noted that oil and gas in Uganda was meant to improve infrastructures like roads, schools and hospitals, projects would are supposed to provide jobs to Ugandan.

Graduates need to know that the oil and gas project is not going to satisfy all people’s needs, especially employment because from 2014 to 2020 only 50 graduates have been employed in the sector.

Therefore, I call upon government agencies like the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), local governments and local leaders to sensitize the public about local content.

Paul Kato is a research associate at Kikuube Youth Development Forum

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OPINION: Why Always Bugoma Forest?

By Paul Kato

Bugoma forest encroachment has become a topic every year. Since last year, many individuals, companies, agencies, veterans and the Bunyoro kingdom have been accused of destroying the forest.

Several groups of people in Hoima, individuals and the Non-governmental organizations like SICU and Save Bugoma forest Campaign (SBFC), African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Chimpanzee Trust Hoima and Oil Refinery Resettlement Association among others have been campaigning for the conservation of the forest but no action has been taken by government agencies like National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).

Recently, a group of people in Hoima district wrote a letter to President Yoweri Museveni reminding him of their demands and what the president promised Bunyoro in his last presidential term. A number of demands were raised and one of them was to cancel Bugoma land title as a way of conserving the forest but no action has been taken.

Bugoma forest is being destroyed by companies like Hoima Sugar Limited which is carrying out sugar cane growing. Others destroying the forest are individuals and veterans carrying out lumbering and cultivation and oil companies carrying out oil related-activities. 

The forest is under the threat by companies, individuals, veterans and oil companies which will endanger the biodiversity hence resulting to environmental degradation, climate change, human-animal conflict in search for space and food hence resulting to Fermin, Drought and floods among others.

The forest needs to be conserved because it is very important on the environment, people’s livelihoods and the country’s economy for instance in 2017/2018 tourism contributed 10% to the country’s national budget. It also provides local herbs to local communities, help in the rain formation among others.

The forest covers an area of 401km. It is found on an escarpment east of Lake Albert on the edge of the western rift valley. The forest is well endowed with a wide range of biodiversity, for instance, it has 465 species of trees, 359 species of birds, 2899 species of butterfly and 130 species of moths among others. Therefore, the forest needs to be conserved because of its importance.

It should be noted that human activities and the oil-related- activities will not replace the forest services. In addition, oil is going to be extracted for a few years and get finished but the forest will stay serving the environment.

Therefore, I call upon NEMA, National Forestry Authority (NFA), environmental policy and local leaders to operationalize new environmental laws that are going to stop people from encroaching on Bugoma forest because the forest is very crucial to environment, country’s economy and people’s livelihoods.

Paul Kato

Research Associate at African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)

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Ministry Of Education E-Learning Move Right, Says Vice Chancellor Victoria University

By Dr Krishna N. Sharma 

Higher education training institutions across the country were excited to know that the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) finally released guidelines for adoption of an emergency Open, Distance and E-Learning (ODeL) system during COVID-19 pandemic.

It is also applauding of the First Lady and education and sports minister Mrs Janet Museveni, gave the go-ahead for online teaching to enable the higher institutions of learning to offer learning during the current lockdown.

Though a few institutions had already engaged their students in teaching and learning activities using online platforms, the students and institutions were still uncertain about the continuity. If we leave out the institutions that started online teaching and learning early, for some of them, this guideline is a vanity, appreciating it is sanity, but complying with it is a yet-to-be-tested reality.

Institutions were concerned about the delay in issuing the guidelines as it was affecting the sustainability of institutions and the progress of students. But after reading this carefully crafted five-paged compact to-the-point document, it becomes clear why did it take time. The good thing is that the NCHE consulted the universities, took note of their suggestions, analysed, and then came up with this guideline. So, it is expected that the majority of the institutions co-own it.

These guidelines ask higher education training institutions to avail 26 different pieces of evidence. But the beauty of this guideline is that it protects academic freedom and institutional autonomy. These essential pieces of evidence cover a wide range of areas including but not limited to students, human resource, ODeL model, evaluation and assessment, ICT infrastructure, quality assurance, health and safety, and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

The very first expectation in this guideline is the existence of COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as issued by the Ministry of Health. It indicates that NCHE has prioritised the health and safety of students and staff. It is something the higher education training institutions should already have in place as it has been long since the Ministry of Health issued the guideline.

The immediate challenge higher education training institutions may face is crafting a cost-effective ODeL system that addresses the need of institution and students. This can be well guided by doing a student survey to find out their readiness. Knowing the readiness and challenges of students will help institutions not only find practical solutions and build required ICT infrastructure but also help them propose reasonable mitigation measures and strategy of redress for time and learning lost. The survey will guide the discussion with relevant stakeholders on mitigation measures and approach.

However, just having the ODeL system and ICT infrastructure is not enough until the users know how to use it. Higher education training institutions need to train their staff and students on appropriate and effective utilisation of ODeL system for online teaching, learning, assessment and evaluation. It is also vital to ensure that the students and staff are aware of internet ethics and relevant laws and regulations such as the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019.

There will be challenges at students’ end too. Few students may find e-learning financially constraining if there are longer face-to-face teaching and learning hours, mentally constraining if they have poor internet connection, and physically constraining (e.g. eye strain, neck pain, backache) if they don’t have quality tools to access ODeL. It is important to inform students about these constrains and help them learn cop up mechanisms.

Another important area, the institutions need to focus on is online assessment and evaluation. There will be a need for smart use of ICT to avoid cheating while ensuring security and privacy. Institutions should find creative and innovative ways to establish a framework that ensures fair assessment and evaluation without over-complicating the whole process.

In a nutshell, the guidelines have covered all essential areas and the ball is in the court of higher education training institutions and students. The post-pandemic period is not going to be the same and the e-learning is going to prepare both the education sector and the student for the same. It is not going to be a swift shift for many institutions and students, but it is worthwhile.

We must applaud the government on the move taken to allow e-learning. We should have had it in this country years back. The mere fact that now that the government has pronounced itself on the matter, this is highly laudable.

The writer is a Vice-Chancellor for Victoria University in Kampala.

Women Are Primary Users Of Land; Respect Their Land Rights

By Christopher Opio

Many scholars have argued that there is a direct relationship between women and girl children land right, economic empowerment, food security and poverty reduction. While women’s land and property rights are vital to development, the reality remains that in many parts of Uganda these rights are often not shared equally between men and women, and are routinely violated, denied and given insufficient protection and enforcement. 

This has been seen in government compulsory land acquisition and other forms of land transactions. Not only do women have lower access to land than men. They are often also restricted to secondary land rights, meaning that they hold these rights through their male family members. Women have been left out in decision making, formulation of land policies and many other associated land rights. This situation however has been worsened with the discovery of oil and gas in the Albertine region.

Women and girls in the oil affected communities are suffering additional injustices and they lack the means to fight the injustices and defend their rights. These sufferings among others include family breakdowns, denial of access and control of compensation funds, school dropouts, deterioration of health services, clean water, food insecurity and degradation of social fabric.

This problem is partly due to our societal setup which is patriarchal and land ownership is dominated by men, who dominate the majority of decisions related to land use and management which put the security of women’s land tenure in a problem.

 The constitutional right to own land under Article 237(1) of the Constitution clearly states that land belongs to the citizens of Uganda and Article 21 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender and accords men and women the same status and rights, thus women are entitled to own land like any other individuals in the society.

In addition, article 33 provides for special help/protection for mothers and women because of previous historical discrimination against women and prohibits any customary laws, traditions, or customs that discriminate against women.

In the Land Act, there are two sections that directly address gender, land and property rights. Section 38A of the Land (Amendment) Act 2004 provides for a spouse’s security of occupancy on family land, and section 39 requires spousal consent prior to entering into any land transaction concerning land on which the spouse resides on and uses for sustenance.

However, despite of the above safeguards, women are continuing to suffer great injustices during land acquisition, land sales and deals. Most of these laws are well stipulated on the paper and thus lack clear regulations and implementation framework which continue to put women and girl children in a vulnerable situation especially with the development of oil and gas projects in the Albertine region which has led to increasing demand for land coupled with unfair traditional history of land ownership that undermines their role on land use and management.

For example, the women affected by the oil refinery in 2012 contrary to the consideration made in the resettlement action plan (refinery RAP, 2012) and the constitutional safeguards for women land rights, were not fully engaged during the land acquisition processes and as a result, many women and girl children were abandoned by men after receiving the compensation money resulting into family break up, divorce, separation and school dropout among the oil refinery project affected children.

This is one example that that women and girl children suffer additional effects during land acquisition and transaction and with the increasing land acquisition for oil and gas projects, and land sales in the Albertine region, there is need for local communities, leaders, CSOs, government ministries and agencies to come together to work out a lasting solution for women and girl children land rights to avoid the experiences of the oil refinery project affected people. Women and girl children should always also ensure that they are fully engaged and participate in all land transaction in their families and communities.

Christopher Opio, Secretary ORRA

Kabaale-Buseruka

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Energy Ministry Should Desist From Licencing Out Ngaji Oil Block

By Edwin Mumbere

On July 8th, 2020, the coalition bringing together Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and members of Kasese women and youth clean energy clubs held a meeting at the office of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) in Kasese. 

The objective of the meeting was to discuss the fact that the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Hon. Mary Kitutu informed the country that Uganda will launch a second licensing round for oil blocks and with a deadline of  September 30th 2020. 

The coalition of Kasese women and youth clean energy clubs brings together women and youth clubs in addition to CSOs that are promoting environmental conservation in Kasese through enabling community access to clean energy. 

The coalition and its members are opposed to the exploitation of dirty energy such as oil in protected areas as this results in environmental degradation, destroys biodiversity, harms community livelihoods through the loss of jobs in the fishing and tourism sectors and others. 

The coalition and its members, therefore, the campaign against government plans to explore for oil in Lake Edward, a Ramsar site, Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP), a Human and Biosphere Reserve, and other protected areas in Kasese and the Greater Virunga landscape at large. 

The information that the coalition gathered is that five exploration blocks including some that were leftover from the last competitive licencing round of 2016 will be put up for bidding on September 2020. Ngaji block was one of these blocks. Owing to the community, CSO and international pressure, oil companies feared to bid for the block, and rightly so. 

Ngaji oil block, which covers Lake Edward and QENP, serves economic, social, cultural and aesthetic purposes that no amount of money from oil exploitation can replace. 

Moreover, the government is already destroying other critical ecosystems by allowing polluting oil activities in Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), giving away forest lands to squatters and investors to develop tax centres among others, allowing sand mining and rice growing in lakes and wetlands such as Lwera and others. 

After degrading our environment, government issues Ugandans with warnings to prepare for famine such as the one that was issued on April 3, 2019. 

This is unacceptable and through this petition, we are calling on the Minister of Energy to desist from putting up Ngaji oil block for bidding. 

We are also calling on Members of Parliament (MPs) from Kasese, Rukungiri, Rubirizi, Kanungu, Ibanda, Mitooma and Kamwenge among others to demand that the Ministry of Energy does not put up the oil block for bidding. We explain why below:

  1. a) Environmental degradation: Between February 27 and March 1, 2019, CSOs, youth and women belonging to our coalition visited the oil region and interacted with oil-affected communities from Hoima, Buliisa, Kikuube, Nwoya and other districts. Our visit was supported by AFIEGO. The communities we visited told us that massive vegetation clearing for oil infrastructure, development of big roads through eco-sensitive areas such as MFNP and increase in human-wildlife conflict characterise oil exploitation activities. The communities decried the destruction of their environment and those from Nwoya told us that when oil exploration started, more elephants started invading and destroying their gardens. Communities, therefore, had ill will towards conservation because animals were destroying their crops. 
  2. b) Rise in charcoal and food trade: In addition, we were informed that construction of oil roads such as the Hoima Kaiso-Tonya road resulted in increased charcoal trade and therefore tree burning. With increased traffic on the roads comes increasing markets for charcoal. As such, the environment is being destroyed as communities engage in the charcoal trade. We were also informed that due to the rising food market because of an increasing population in the oil region, communities were increasingly exerting pressure on eco-sensitive areas as they seek land to grow food for sale. 
  3. c) Poor compensation: We were also informed that communities affected by land acquisitions for an oil refinery, central processing facilities (CPFs), roads and other mega oil infrastructure in Hoima and Buliisa were given low compensation. This did not only result in many community members becoming poorer, it also increases pressure on eco-sensitive areas as poorly compensated communities encroach on protected areas that are not well-policed. 
  4. d) Fears over loss of fishing jobs: The fishing communities that we interacted with were fearful that they would lose their fishing jobs due to oil activities on Lake Albert. They said that the lake provides fish and income to the young and old but because of oil activities, communities feared that they would be stopped from using the lake. 
  5. e) Poorly conducted ESIAs: Communities also informed us that government tells them that it will be able to avoid, minimise or mitigate oil impacts on the environment through conducting and implementing Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) studies. However, communities told us that the conduct of ESIA is ignored as happened in the oil refinery project, oil activities such as land acquisitions commence before ESIAs are conducted and that community views are largely ignored in ESIA processes. This compromises conservation efforts. 
  6. f) Oil activities against Paris Climate Change Agreement: The community testimonies convinced us more than ever that Uganda will not exploit oil without experiencing oil impacts such as environmental degradation, loss of jobs which cannot be replaced by the oil sector, poverty, food insecurity, water scarcity, increased disease burden, loss of cultures, increased marginalisation of women, conflicts and others seen in countries such as Nigeria, Ecuador and others. We resolved to petition you, the Minister of Energy, and our MPs to ensure that Lake Edward and QENP are protected from oil activities. 
  7. g) Moreover, oil activities are against Uganda’s Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) on climate change and the Paris Climate Change Agreement that seek to lower carbon emissions to reduce global warming. We, however, have the following recommendations;

 (i) We call upon the government, through the Minister of Energy, to desist from putting up Ngaji oil block for licencing on May 8, 2019. Enough is enough! The president and his government have severally told Ugandans that they are pro-environmental conservation. In fact, one of the resolutions that the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) came up with a following a meeting at Chobe Safari Lodge in Nwoya district in February 2019 was that NRM would work for “environmental conservation, as part of a fundamental push to roll back and mitigate the effects of climate change.” Exploiting oil is against this resolution. The government should not destroy our environment, contribute to climate change through oil exploitation efforts and then tell us to prepare for famine! 

(ii) Further, MPs from Kasese, Rukungiri, Rubirizi, Kanungu, Mitooma, Ibanda and Kamwenge should demand that the Ministry of Energy does not put up Ngaji oil block for licencing. Oil exploitation should not be allowed in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Edward and other protected areas. 

(iii) In addition, we call upon parliament to ensure that the ongoing amendments to the Land Acquisition Act of 1965 by the Ministry of Lands ensure that compensation challenges are addressed. MPs should make sure that the amended Land Acquisition Act sets stiff penalties for government failure to pay adequate compensation and that the act defines what prompt, fair and adequate compensation is. This will help communities which are suffering because of under-compensation while also reducing the pressure exerted on eco-sensitive areas due to under-compensation. 

(iv) Further, the Ministry of Water and Environment, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the National Forestry Authority (NFA) among other stakeholders should ensure that the environment is protected amidst oil threats. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries should ensure that fisheries and fishing communities’ jobs are protected. 

(v) Government, through the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), should scale up implementation of the ‘Free’ Electricity Connections Policy (ECP) of 2018. The free connections that communities need are not those that involve being connected to the grid yet they cannot afford to pay hydro-electricity bills. Communities need off-grid solar energy. REA should, therefore, connect the 1.9 million households and more to off-grid solutions as is aspired to under the ECP. This policy was launched by the government in Kasese in August 2018 and its implementation should be scaled up to enable communities to get connected to solar. Ministry of Energy should pursue this alternative instead of seeking to exploit oil to ostensibly help Ugandans access modern energy among others. 

(vi) Further, government including the president, Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Water and Environment among other stakeholders must implement commitments made under the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Uganda’s NDCs on climate change. Exploiting Uganda’s oil resources is against the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Uganda’ NDCs whose overall goal is to curb global warming. Citizens and development partners should hold government accountable to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Uganda’s NDCs. 

(vii) Finally, development partners should support Uganda to invest in solar projects and to realise lower electricity tariffs to minimise the environmental impacts that arise because of a lack of access to clean energy. 

Edwin Mumbere is a climate change activist

 

Why Oil Revenue Resources May Not Spur Uganda Into A Middle Income Country

By Patrick Edema

Uganda expects to begin producing oil in 2023, and it is anticipated that the government will earn significant revenues from the inflow of oil funds. If collected and utilized responsibly, generated revenues have the potential to uplift Uganda’s economic growth and development.

However, the government has been accused of misuse and violations of oil revenue laws. For instance, contrary to Section 58 of the Public Finance Management Act 2015, the government withdrew UGX 125 billion in 2017 and UGX 200 billion from the Petroleum Fund before parliamentary approval. The money was used to finance deficits of the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 budget. It is also clear that the government further withdrew UGX 445 billion to finance deficits of FY 2019/2020.

This was a violation of Section 59(3) of the PFMA of 2015 which provides that oil revenue will only be used for infrastructural and other development purposes only. Further, since 2008, the government has earned over $1 billion from signature bonuses, CGT and other oil revenue sources but the government cannot account for most of this money. This non-compliance with a binding law creates suspicion that the NDP III will not achieve the expected targets for 2021-2025 in Uganda’s transformative vision 2040. 

As Uganda works towards achieving middle-income status, the National Development Plan is capturing every single important statistic that oil and gas will propel Uganda to middle-income status as well as overall achievement of the country’s 2040 vision. But on August 30, 2016, the Ugandan government allotted Tullow Oil Company with five production licenses while Total was given three. This brings the number of production licenses issued to nine after Uganda had offered one to the Chinese National Offshore oil company (CNOOC). And what one is asking is how much money Uganda has earned from the oil sector for the last eight years or so and what that money has been used for. How much of this is kept on which account? The few times the oil-money issue has been discussed is when Uganda won a dispute against Heritage Oil company and another case against Tullow Oil.

The World Bank report (2015) indicates that Uganda’s GDP currently stands at $ 26.37 billion with GDP value representing 0.04 per cent of the world economy. As a country, we predict GDP enhancement when oil production starts. It is unfortunate that NDP III will not register the expected success if there is no transparency and accountability in oil and gas sector to ensure that resource wealth is managed for the benefit of the whole nation.

The government further implements environmental laws such as the Environmental Act 2018, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations  1998 that are required to guide in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA) processes of oil projects. For instance NEMA issued a certificate of approval under violations of the laws NEMA and PAU are violated Regulation 22(2) which requires public hearings to be organised between 30 and 45 days from the last day NEMA receives comments from the public. 

Therefore, disregard of the law by NEMA and PAU harms public confidence in government’s ability to enforce laws in the oil sector to protect the environment, communities and the public.  For example, the Tilenga oil project is being developed in one of the most bio diverse areas in Africa.  River Nile, Lake Albert, Murchison Falls National Park and Budongo in addition to Bugungu and Karuma Game Reserves are key national and transboundary ecosystems that are going to be affected by the Tilenga oil project and the public needs to trust that government will follow the law to protect the environment for the common good. For the NDPIII to achieve its required target of increased household incomes and improved quality of life, government should enforce the environmental laws since the majority of the population depends on agriculture.

With the main goal of the expected Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDP), 2020/2021 -2024/2025 “increase household incomes and improved quality of life” by 2025 through delivering higher economic growth rates, higher GDP per capita and lower poverty rates while reducing vulnerability as well as income disparities between regions and between population segments, there is also need to implement the local content policy if Uganda is to register success of third National Development Plan.

The theory behind local content laws and policies is to encourage the use of local labor, goods and services in the oil and gas industry. But there is a gap between theory and practice. Unfortunately, this gap currently exists in Uganda with poor infrastructure and lack of skills being two of the practical stumbling blocks in building local content, oil and gas companies having to invest time and resources in training local populations and building infrastructure to handle logistical issues.

And notwithstanding the good intentions of the Ugandan Government, the legal and regulatory framework on local content in Uganda is still weak because neither the current nor the proposed regulatory framework on local content provides for clear roles of the various stakeholders in the petroleum industry, timelines for the implementation of local content legislation or policy statements have not been provided, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure compliance have not been factored in and no definite goals have been set for the achievement of the identified local content objectives.

With the development strategy of the NDP III tailored towards unbalanced growth path entailing focusing on the available limited resources, oil and gas will play a catalytic role of providing the needed resources for increasing productivity in all the sectors through human capital investment, developing complementary infrastructure needed by the private sector, promoting industrial development and manufacturing of value addition.

Therefore, the government has to overcome the challenge of how local content laws and policies work for all stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to promote development of the country as a whole.

Recommendations:

Considering that Oil is a national natural resource, the NDP should cover the following;

In view of Uganda’s present and possible future challenges in the natural resource management specifically oil and gas, civil society organizations would like to propose the following recommendations that must be articulated in the NDP III

Amend the PFMA 2015 to create individual liability: The PFMA should be urgently amended to provide that any government official who violates laws and as a result causes financial loss and or misallocation of public revenues should personally suffer the consequences. This will instill discipline among government officers who act with impunity and later hide behind government offices.

Complete and put in place ESIA regulations: NEMA should urgently complete and put in place the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) regulations and guidelines. Currently, NEMA is implementing the 1998 EIA regulations which do not promote transparency. The new regulations and guidelines should make hiding of information such as the presiding officer’s report a punishable offence.

The NDP III should set standards to decisively deal with and address the broader question of environmental governance, compliance and law enforcement. In Uganda, the majority of people, most especially influential ones, including leaders at all levels spend more time and money either trying to circumvent or violate the law than comply. This implies that it is more expensive to comply and less costly (socially, financially and politically) to violate the law. No matter how technically sound a new development plan is, it is unlikely to change much unless this situation is reversed.

Implement and comply with local content policy. The NDP III should ensure that Ugandans and locally sourced products for employment and use first.

Conclusion

The government is highly applauded for the close attention to the energy sector and the consistent steps taken towards the historical production of first oil by 2023. This is evidenced by heavy investments in the sector for the last few years and still going. However, to strengthen and harness the energy sector, the government should address the above issues both the immediate, medium and long-term so that the energy sector is vibrant and able to trigger the much awaited economic growth and perhaps usher Uganda into lower middle-income status in the nearest future as highlighted in NDP III. It is envisaged that oil revenues will help in financing development projects and facilitate the meeting of NDP III targets and priority sectors identified.   

Patrick Edema is an Environmental Engineer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO)

 

EACOP To Increase Uganda’s Vulnerability To Climate Change

By Patrick Edema

The discovery of commercial oil deposits was made in 2006 in Uganda and it is anticipated that the government will earn significant revenues from the inflow of oil funds. If collected and utilized responsibly, generated revenues have the potential to uplift Uganda’s economic growth and development.

The EACOP pipeline will be running from the oil fields in Hoima, western Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania transporting crude that will be electrically heated throughout the pipeline. However, the government of Uganda is ignoring the related climate impacts that will come up with what it thinks is a blessing to the country.

For instance, an understanding of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) must begin with the nature of the material the pipeline would transport, a waxy variety of crude oil that solidifies at ambient temperatures and must be heated to at least 50 degrees Celsius throughout the 1443km length of the pipeline to arrive at a port for international export, vastly increasing the environmental and economic costs of exploiting Lake Albert area crude oil reserves. 

An understanding of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline must also begin with the fact that world’s temperature has increased by an estimated 0.9o C as atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have risen from 290 parts per million (ppm) in pre-industrial times to more than 415 ppm in 2019, an atmospheric level of CO2 that has not existed since at least three million years ago. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is warning that a further increase of the world’s temperature by more than another 0.6o C, a consequence of CO2 levels exceeding 450 ppm, would have far-ranging catastrophic consequences on humanity, including food security and livability of cities.

Section 8.22 of the EACOP ESIA is titled "Climate" and sub-section 8.22.2 of the ESIA is titled "Project Greenhouse Gas Emissions."  This Section of the ESIA confines its assessment to only the operational emissions of CO2 and reaches the following conclusion (on page 8-370).

The key conclusions related to the EACOP project’s impact on climate include “Direct operational emissions in Uganda once the bulk heaters begin operation will range between 11–18 ktCO2e/a, which represents around 0.014–0.029% of Uganda’s total GHG emissions in 2030: the contribution of EACOP to national emissions is therefore low and will not affect Uganda’s ability to meet its emission reduction target published as part of the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement.”

The claim that the project’s emissions would be 11–18 kilotons of CO2-equivalents per year ktCO2e/a) is grossly inaccurate as these emissions do not include indirect emissions, which (as stated on page 8-368) are “end use of the products derived from the crude oil.”

As stated in the ESIA, the purpose of the EACOP project is to transport 216,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Lake Albert area so that the crude oil can be refined into transportation fuels that are used to power internal combustion engines, adding to the global atmospheric burden of CO2 levels.

According to table 8.22-1 of the ESIA states that EACOP crude blend E1 has a fuel density 868 kilograms per cubic meter (kg/m3), resulting in CO2eq emissions of 3.14 kg/kg of fuel.  End-use of the products derived from the crude oil (combustion of transportation fuels derived from EACOP crude blend E1) must be at least this high. 

One barrel of EACOP crude blend E1 has a volume of 0.16 cubic meters (m3) and the purpose of the pipeline is to transport 216000 barrels per day, equivalent to 78.8 million barrels per year, 12.6 million m3 per year, 10,900 million kilograms per year, or 10.9 million metric tons per year. 

If combusting 1 ton of EACOP crude blend E1 results in 3.14 tons of CO2eq emissions, then indirect emissions of the EACOP project would be at least 34.3 million metric tons of CO2eq emissions per year which is 2000 times higher than the operational CO2eq emissions assessed in Section 8.22 of the ESIA

The Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (IWG) published estimates of the social cost of CO2 emissions to allow agencies to incorporate the social benefits of reducing CO2 emissions into cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions. 

In the methods adopted by IWG, the social cost of carbon is defined as the monetized damages associated with an incremental increase in carbon emissions in a given year. It is intended to include changes in net agricultural productivity, human health, property damages from increased flood risk, and the value of ecosystem services due to climate change.

The indirect CO2 emissions of the EACOP project would have immense environmental, social, economic, and moral dimensions.   Approval of the ESIA for the project without scrutiny of the consequences of its indirect CO2 emissions should be set aside as irrational.

Patrick Edema is an Environmental Engineer at African Institute for Energy Governance

 

 

NEMA Needs To Improve Draft ESIA Regulations

By Sunshine Nalule

I would like to commend the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for putting in place a number of regulations including the Petroleum (Waste Management) Regulations of 2019, the National Environment (Audit) Regulations of 2020 and others.

In 2019, the president signed into law the 2019 National Environment Act. The new law replaced the old one, the 1995 National Environment Act, because the old law did not provide for emerging challenges such as oil and gas exploitation, climate change and others.

To operationalise the 2019 National Environment Act, it was necessary for the Ministry of Water and Environment in addition to NEMA to put in place the regulations prescribed by the law. Without the regulations, it is hard to enforce the new law. It is therefore commendable that NEMA has taken a step in the right direction and has put in place some regulations.

Today, I call on NEMA to complete and put in place the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) regulations as required by the new law.

The above regulations are needed to govern over ESIA processes. The 2019 National Environment Act prescribes the mandatory conduct of ESIA studies for petroleum, transport, infrastructure and other projects listed under Schedule 5 of the Act.

The conduct of ESIA is necessary for the avoidance, minimisation or mitigation of the environmental and social impacts, risks or concerns of degrading projects.

Amidst the ongoing oil exploitation, oil roads construction, planned water abstraction from Lake Albert to support oil activities and others, the ESIA regulations are urgently needed for the protection of the environment and livelihoods.

While completing and operationalising the regulations, I call upon NEMA to avoid stifling public participation and accountability in ESIA processes through the regulations.

In a memorandum of proposals to fill gaps in the Draft 2019 ESIA regulations that 13 civil society organisations (CSOs) led by Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) sent to NEMA in October 2019, the CSOs raised key concerns.

Among them was the fact that NEMA was trying to:

  • Give itself powers to determine whether to invite members of the public in the affected area, and not all Ugandans, to make written and oral comments on an ESIA.
  • Give itself powers to determine whether a public hearing on an ESIA was necessary.
  • Reduce the number of days within which a notice inviting the public to a public hearing would be made. This will deny the public the time needed to review and make meaningful comments on an ESIA.
  • Stop the poor from accessing ESIA documents through prescribing a fee.
  • Undermine the involvement of affected cross-border communities in ESIA processes among others.

The above weaknesses stand to stifle accountability, public participation and promote corruption, undermining environmental conservation and efforts to protect community livelihoods.

NEMA should therefore act on the recommendations that the CSOs made to promote good environmental governance.

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