Communities living around Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) and Lake Edward have advised oil companies to ignore any calls for bids from the government of Uganda in relation to oil exploration on Ngaji oil block.
The area of Ngaji oil block comprises of ecologically sensitive parts of the of the Greater Virunga landscape stretching to Ruwenzori and Kigezi regions in Uganda from North Kivu Province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In their open letter dated yesterday (Wednesday), June 30, 2021, the communities from the two countries through coalitions largely comprising of women and youths say they are scared of the side effects of oil exploration and consequent production.
According to them they include land insecurity, environmental degradation, being deprived of social and cultural benefits and losing their traditional sources of livelihood forever. They refer to fishing, agriculture and direct economic benefits form the tourism industry.
The letter was dedicated to the Executive Directors of: Total E&P Petroliers Ltd, CNOOC (U) Ltd, DGR Global Ltd, PetroAfrik Resources Ltd, Niger Petroleum Resources Ltd and Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) which are potential bidders.
The communities supported by national Civil Society Organisaitons (CSOs) has since 2015 been campaigning against oil exploration in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake Edward arguing that they are environmentally sensitive and mean a lot to their livelihood.
They also claim that they fear facing the experience of land grabbing, delayed compensation for their land and other properties affected by oil projects basing on the stories told by some people affected by the oil projects in Bunyoro region districts of Hoima and Buliisa and those along the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Their resistance is informed by a research conducted by Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) indicating that 13.43% of the Kabaale oil refinery project affected people in Hoima could no longer afford to own land again though they were compensated.
They also fear losing the tourism potentiality of two conservation areas yet the industry earns at least $1.6b annually to the country.
QENP, is one of Uganda’s most visited by local and foreign tourists because of its diverse nature that includes 612 bird species, 95 animal species and 57 plant species in addition to its unique animals such as the Isasha climbing lions and topi.
The communities insist that no oil activities should be conducted in the Greater Virunga Landscape which is one of the United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO’s) designated World Biosphere Reserve for Humanity.
The communities call uponUNESCO and other well-meaning partners to engage the government of Uganda and oil companies to drop Ngaji oil block from the list of five blocks advertised for the second licensing round for oil exploration.
The open letter is signed by 11 groups subscribing to theCoalition of Kasese Women and Youth Clean Energy Clubs, seven organisations under CSO Coalition to Safeguard Biodiversity and Kanungu Youth for Clean Energy among others in Uganda.
Those from the neighbouring DR Congo include 23 CSOs and CBOs subscribing to a coalition called DYCOPERA.