EAC youth scoff at criticism of Hoima-Tanga oil pipeline

What you need to know:

  • Members of the East African Youth Parliament have rubbished the environmental harm narrative by the proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline opponents, saying it was not supported by concrete facts

Arusha. Opponents of the Hoima-Tanga crude oil pipeline have once again been castigated for their hardline stance.

Members of the East African Youth Parliament insist the project should go ahead for its economic benefits to the oil-importing region.

They rubbished the environmental harm narrative by the proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) opponents, saying it was not supported by concrete facts.

“What harm would the pipeline cause to our environment?” asked Ms Marion Lisa Kirabo from Uganda as the Assembly debated the issue on Saturday.

She said a section of Ugandans were disturbed by recent protests against the project, often roping in civil society activists from abroad.

“We need to balance economic growth and environmental conservation. How much is the project going to affect the environment?” she wondered.

She added, “At times we have to strike a balance between use of our natural resources and the need for economic growth and jobs.”

Ms Kirabo, a lawyer, said Tanzania and Uganda have environmental regulations in place to address environment-related drawbacks.

Key among them is Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which is mandatory for projects of the oil pipeline magnitude.

Opponents of the project, she said, had created the impression that Tanzania and Uganda downplayed the conservation aspects in the project’s implementation.

“We have regulations in place,” she explained, noting that the pipeline will have a bigger economic role to the two countries’ economies.

Mr Saviour Tombe, a member of the Assembly from South Sudan also defended the pipeline, saying Uganda has to exploit the resource.

He wondered as to why some Ugandans were protesting the drilling of oil in their territory, an activity that will boost their economy.

Mr Tombe, who is the deputy Speaker of the EA Youth Assembly,said 98 percent of his country’s economy was dependent on oil.

“Why should Ugandans neglect drilling for oil because of pressure by activists from outside?” he asked, calling on Uganda to learn from Juba.

“Our economy depends on oil and we have enough mitigation measures against pollution using the money accrued from oil,” he explained.

He stressed that oil companies are often held accountable for pollution and other aspects of environmental harms and not the project designers.

The Hoima-Tanga crude oil pipeline that will cover about 1,443 kilometres has been a subject of debate among activists - mainly from abroad - who oppose it on alleged harm to the ecology.

The opposition has largely originated from the European Parliament and France, the home of TotalEnergies, an oil giant expected to execute it.

The latest in a series of protests took place in Kampala on October 4th, according to Ugandan delegates to the EA Youth Parliament which ended its two day sitting here on Saturday.

Arguments by the activists on the alleged environmental hazards of the pipeline have also been rubisshed by the policy makers in the region.

 Notable among them are members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), many of them saying the project passed the mandatory environmental test.

 Ms George Odongo, an Eala member from Uganda from Uganda was quoted saying recently that the project could not have been approved without the requisite environmental tests.

 He wondered as to why the project opponents based in Europe have raised the pollution fears whereas the EA region emitted a mere fraction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) globally.

 The pollution claims, he opined, were baseless in that the entire Europe and other industrialized countries generated millions of tonnes of GHGs daily.

 The $4 billion Hoima-Tanga pipeline project would yield about 250,000 barrels of crude oil a day to be sold in the markets within the region and abroad.

 According to Mr. Odongo, the project would also generate 1,000 km of paved roads and substantial revenues “to plant trees and fight poverty.”

 He asserted that the CSO groups based in Europe and their collaborators in the region have “ no moral authority” to oppose construction of the pipeline.

 Abdullah Makame (Tanzania) argued that the human rights violation claims were “unacceptable” because 70 percent of people whose land would be taken by the project have already been compensated.

 He said oil was an abundant resource that East Africa was endowed with and that time has come to exploit it to improve “our regional economies.”

 Back at the EA Youth Assembly sitting in Arusha,Altmutawakkil Mbwana, a Tanzanian member,however, implored the East African countries to invest in technologies that will reduce use of fossil fuels.

He hinted on the likelihood of fossil fuel depleting on earth in the next 100 years or so, noting that it would demand a switch to new sources of energy.

Environmentally friendly technologies, he suggested, have to include climate smart agriculture “to enable us to produce our own food.”

According to him, 65 percent of volumes of goods traded within the East African Community (EAC) bloc are agricultural products.

He called on the partner states to prioritize environmental sustainability by combating transboundary environmental challenges such as pollution of water resources.

Ms Nampeera Miriam from Uganda said despite pledges made by the partner states the EAC Climate Change Policy has remained on paper.

“The policy framework has remained not been implemented, maybe for lack of political will or governance structures,” she explained.