TotalEnergies has unveiled a biodiversity program in Tilenga development area
Hoima, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | TotalEnergies EP Uganda will ensure that all the different kinds of life in its project area is well protected amid the ongoing oil and gas developments in the country’s pristine environment, according to its General Manager, Philippe Groueix.
Groueix, who together with the executives from the National Environment Management Authority, World Conservation Society Uganda Program, Petroleum Authority of Uganda and Ministry of Water and Environment, unveiled an initiative dubbed Tilenga Biodiversity Program in Kampala on June.08, said TotalEnergies EP Uganda believes that the biodiversity sector is important for the country and the future.
“There is legitimate fear that our activities in the oil sector will have an impact on biodiversity and we are here to transform that fear and demonstrate that it is an opportunity we can use to preserve nature,” he said.
“We will positively contribute by making sure nature will be in a better situation compared to what it was before the oil project.”
Groueix said his company which is currently carrying out earthworks at the Tilenga Development Project head of machine installation for oil extraction, is mindful of the sensitive context within the areas it is undertaking activities.
“We have thus made a commitment to ensure that we implement action plans designed to produce net positive impact on biodiversity,” he said.
The Tilenga Biodiversity Program, according to the Pauline Macronald, head of environment biodiversity at TotalEnergies EP Uganda, will ensure that positive outcomes for biodiversity and communities are realised by applying the mitigation hierarchy to “avoid, minimize and restore” impacts.
She said the program will involve designing, implementing and monitoring a range of interventions in partnership with authorities, conservation actors present in the landscape and community-based organisations, an approach that allows for a robust demonstration of success whilst capturing conservation objectives for the Albertine area with a strong focus on community needs.
She said with this approach, TotalEnergies EP Uganda has carried out a range of extensive studies and consultations with key stakeholders during the program development and has identified four main pillars to achieve the project vision.
The pillars include; working with Uganda Wildlife Authority in reducing human pressures and strengthening the ecological resilience of the Murchison Falls Protected Area as well as pprotecting and maintaining the connectivity of habitats in the savanna in the proximity of the Bugungu Wildlife Reserve; working with NFA and implementing partners to roll out conservation and restoration measures for forests; and working with Ministry of Water and Environment and host communities to help build more resilient wetland ecosystems.
“Furthermore, we shall compensate for impacts that are likely to persist to achieve positive outcomes for wildlife and people within the landscape,” she said.
TotalEnergies EP Uganda’s Tilenga Development Project is situated in the Albertine Rift Valley, one of Africa’s most important areas for biodiversity that includes among others the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Budongo Central Forest Reserve and Lake Albert.
The Albertine Region which is estimated to have up to 6bn barrels of oil, also hosts a long stretch of the River Nile that is shared by Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, DR Congo and Egypt.
Moreover, one of the oil fields being developed is located inside Murchison Falls National Park, home to over 76 mammal species including Nubian Giraffe, Lion, African Elephant and Eastern Chimpanzee as well as 450 known bird species while the others are located outside the park, south of the Victoria Nile.
The company’s other project, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) that consists of the construction of a buried 1,443km oil pipeline between the town of Kabaale in Uganda and the port of Tanga in Tanzania, traverses 10 districts, 22 sub-counties, four town councils, 41 parishes and over 170 villages in Uganda.
It moves southwards along the western side of Tanzania and continues to the southern end of Lake Victoria and turns east continuing across the western arm of the East African Rift Valley before terminating in the northern area of Tanga Port on the Indian Ocean Coast.
For that, environmental activists have been on offensive against the project citing environmental concerns, pushing financiers of fossil fuel projects such as banks, insurers and other financial players to avoid extending financial support.
However, TotalEnergies EP Uganda has already indicated that whereas its current permits cover nearly 10% of Murchison Fall National Park, the development will be restricted to an area representing less than 1% of its surface.
The company has also noted that it has taken several other measures in the Murchison Falls Park including limiting the number of wells to only 10, constructing underground oil and water injection lines, no processing facilities, no flares and installing horizontally drilled flow lines to cross River Nile.
Dr. Akankwasa Barirega, the executive director at the NEMA said they welcome the new initiative towards offsetting of the significant residual impacts of the Tilenga project.
He said NEMA in collaboration with relevant lead agencies will ensure that the net gain programme is implemented in accordance with the provisions of the country’s laws.
“I call upon TotalEnergies EP Uganda to demonstrate that the proposed approach and or conservation actions will result in tangible and measurable conservation outcomes that would not have been achieved were the proposed mechanism not to be implemented,” he said.
“We hope that the interventions by TotalEnergies under this program shall be clear and distinguishable and not overlap with the mandates and functions or work of various institutions such as the UWA, and NFA, among others.”
Dr. Barirega said the success of the programme should prove to the world, particularly at this time when activists have portrayed the country’s petroleum development efforts in negative light in consideration of climate change, that Uganda is committed to sustainable development.
Dr. Joseph Kobusheshe, director for Environment, Health, Safety and Security at PAU said they will ensure Tilenga oil and gas activities leave the areas better than before.