Total reacts to report on rights issues over East African oil pipeline

Saturday September 12 2020

 

By John Namkwahe @johnteck3 news@thecitizen.co.tz

Dar es Salaam. French oil and gas company Total - the main developer of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) - has said it will consider recommendations proposed in an Oxfam report on the Human Rights Impact Assessment of the oil pipeline.

Titled ‘Empty Promises Down the Line? A Human Rights Impact Assessment of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline’, the report highlights several risks of the crude oil pipeline for communities located along the proposed pipeline corridor in Uganda and Tanzania.

The report jointly authored by Oxfam, Global Rights Alert (GRA), the Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), and the Northern Coalition on Extractives and Environment (NCEE), alongside partner organisations among other findings concluded that Eacop would worsen communities’ economic opportunities by limiting the use of their land and destroying the wetlands and forests they depend on for livelihoods.

With regard to this, among other recommendations, the report urges Eacop developers and the two governments to ensure valuation and compensation processes that are just, transparent and aligned with international best practices; support the education, livelihoods and legal defence of relocated families and people at risk especially vulnerable women and girls.

“Total welcomes and agrees with many of Oxfam’s suggestions and recommendations. Again, Total recognizes the value of the community-based approach taken by Oxfam in this assessment as it is complementary to the engagement and consultation with affected communities,” read a part of a statement issued by Total yesterday.

“Many of the recommendations proposed by Oxfam in the report are valuable and useful and will be taken as a basis to progress, indeed most are already reflected in the many initiatives being implemented by Total in relation to the project,” said Total in the statement.

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However, the giant oil firm has disagreed with some of the statements made in the recently released report, claiming that part of its points have not been reflected by the report authors.

The report was released yesterday in a virtual meeting moderated by Uganda’s Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI).

Among other issues, Total thinks the report does not acknowledge the structured approach taken by the French oil firm regarding engagement at the community level.

“One of the key issues faced by the EACOP project and which is a direct cause of many of the issues raised by Oxfam in the context of land acquisition is project delays, not all of which are within the direct control of Total and its partners. Considerable efforts have been made to maintain contact and communicate the situation to affected households, and to ensure that they continue using their land for farming and grazing. Total is committed to continue and reinforce such efforts,” read the Total statement.

At 1,440 kilometres (900 miles) long and at an estimated cost of $345 billion. EACOP would be one of the largest infrastructure projects in East Africa, and the longest heated oil pipeline in the world. The pipeline would transport oil from a pumping station near Hoima, Uganda to a storage terminal near Tanga port in Tanzania. The route would run beside Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, and pass through diverse ecosystems and human settlements.

Regarding potential environmental issues, Total said clarified yesterday in the statement that it was committed to applying international best practices (in accordance with IFC Performance Standards) in addition to national regulations to manage impacts to biodiversity and ecosystem services.

“In relation to the risk of safety and environment incidents, it is recognized by the Oxfam report that there are two distinct phases in a project’s life: construction and operation. The risks related to these two phases are different and have been identified and fully assessed from the initial stages of EACOP project design.

The actions that need to be taken in relation to these risks are implemented in rhythm with the advancement of the project,” said Total.

In implementing its environmental and social strategy, Total not only respects but goes beyond, the requirements set out in Ugandan and Tanzanian laws on Environment, Health and Safety and uses its influence wherever possible to ensure that all actors involved in the project follow best practices, read the statement.

Overall, Total has acknowledged the value of Oxfam report and wished to maintain a constructive dialogue with the organization in relation to the EACOP Project.