The exploration and extraction of fossil fuels in Uganda has become a contentious issue in recent years. While fossil fuels have long been a source of energy for many countries around the world, the negative impacts of extracting and burning these non-renewable resources cannot be ignored.
In Uganda, the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels can have serious consequences for both the environment and local communities.
One of the main concerns with fossil fuel exploration in Uganda is the impact on the country’s biodiversity. Uganda is home to a wide range of unique and endangered species such as the mountain gorilla and the shoebill stork.
The construction of oil and gas industry related infrastructure including roads, pipelines and drilling sites can lead to the destruction of critical habitats and displacement of wildlife. This not only harms the animals themselves but also the communities that rely on ecotourism for their livelihoods.
For example the Murchison Falls National Park that hosts scores of oil wells under the Tilenga project is a home to a variety of wildlife and also a major tourist attraction feature. Extracting fossil fuels in this area could lead to the degradation of the park and loss of touristic value and associated revenue.
Fossil fuel exploration in Uganda has an impact on local communities. Many of the areas where oil and gas reserves are found are also home to indigenous communities who have lived there for generations. These communities often rely on the land and water for farming, fishing and other activities. The construction of oil and gas infrastructure can complicate habitats and lead to displacements in the near time or later after degradation of the communities’ traditional lifestyle and livelihoods.
Besides, the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels can lead to pollution of water sources and air resulting in health hazards to the local population. For instance, the spillage of oily substances at Kibiro landing site in Kiganja sub-county, Hoima district in 2019 affected the livelihoods of some residents adjacent to the geothermal exploration drill point. Fishing gears were destroyed and homesteads evacuated for more than a month.
The extraction and burning of fossil fuels also contributes to climate change which is already affecting Uganda through more extreme weather events and changes in rainfall patterns. Climate change is likely to exacerbate the already existing challenges such as water scarcity and crop failures which could lead to increased food insecurity and poverty in the country.
It is clear that the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels in Uganda is not a sustainable solution for the country’s energy needs. Instead, Uganda should focus on investing in renewable energy sources such as solar and hydroelectric power which will not only provide a cleaner source of energy but also create jobs and economic opportunities for the local population.
In addition, the government should also invest in energy efficiency measures such as the use of energy-efficient cooking stoves to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.
In conclusion, while fossil fuels may seem like an easy and convenient solution for meeting Uganda’s energy and economic needs, the negative impacts on the environment, local communities and the climate, far outweigh the short-term benefits. It is time for Uganda to invest in a sustainable and responsible future by focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The government should also put in place strong policies and regulations to protect the environment and local communities from the negative impacts of fossil fuel exploration and extraction.
Written by Mr Edwin Mumbere
CEO – Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment & Management (CECIC) Uganda.