May 18, 2013

Oil: Gov’t Opens Environment Assessment Report to Public Scrutiny

Irene Muloni, Uganda's Energy Minister
Irene Muloni, Uganda’s Energy Minister

Government has asked members of the public to submit their concerns about how to manage oil production without causing harm to the environment.

The call follows the Strategic Environmental Assessment study, which explored possible changes that oil production could have on the environment. It observes that while the discovery of oil and gas resources presents great socio-economic prospects for the country, the area of the discovery is of high ecological and biodiversity significance providing challenges for environment protection.

The study produced many recommendations for policies, plans, and programmes that will guide environment planning and decision making in the oil producing areas.

It also raises challenges such as oil spill in the lake that could tension with neighbouring countries sharing the resource. Others are the possibility of air pollution, which it says would be difficult to monitor due to absence of data on the ambient air quality around the oil region.

The Strategic Environmental Assessment also warns about a possible increase in cost of living and population in the oil discovery areas such as Buliisa district where the inhabitants were estimated to be only 88,700 in 2010. It says the migration could worsen the tension about land distribution.

Further, the report says that although fish is possibly the most socio-economically valued water resource in the area; its production could drastically reduce due to increased demand from the high population moving into the oil production areas. The study predicts similar pressures on resources such as forests and wildlife.

Irene Muloni, the minister for Energy and Mineral Development, says that the Strategic Environmental Assessment provides a valuable reference and precedent to address environment management issues pertaining to oil and gas activities in the country.

There have been several concerns about the impact of oil exploration and production on the environment since 2006 when a commercial discovery was announced. The concerns arose out of the fact that much of the oil discoveries occurred in environmentally sensitive areas such as national parks and water bodies.

The ministry says the public could raise concerns either to the National Environment Management Authority or the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department about the Strategic Environmental Assessment report.

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