The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), a massive project that aims to transport crude oil from Uganda to the shores of Tanzania, has devastated livelihoods in the early phase of its construction. of thousands of families and, if it ends, more than 100,000 people will permanently lose their land and the global climate crisis will be exacerbated, denounces the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report published this Monday.
“EACOP will be a continuous disaster for the planet and, therefore, it should not be built,” says HRW, based on the testimonies of more than 90 families interviewed for this investigation entitled Our trust is broken. Loss of land and livelihoods to oil development in Uganda.
This 1,443 kilometer pipeline, from the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields in western Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania, will be the longest heated pipeline in the world, with a technology to transport crude oil above 50 degrees in all his journey. The equivalent of 246,000 barrels of oil will circulate through it per day. The project, little known despite being one of the most important fossil fuel infrastructure currently being developed in the world, is led by the French oil company TotalEnergies (62% of the shares), through two of its subsidiaries in East Africa. (TotalEnergies EP Uganda and TotalEnergies East Africa Midstream), together with the Chinese CNOOC (8%), and the oil companies of the two African countries. At this time, and according to information from the companies, the first wells have already been drilled in the two oil fields and the development of the infrastructure is underway.
“EACOP has been a disaster for the tens of thousands of people who have lost the land that provided food for their families and income to send their children to school, and who received too little compensation from TotalEnergies,” denounced in the report Felix Horne, HRW’s senior researcher on the environment.
Horne refers to the complaints made by the interviewees, who highlighted that the amount of the compensation was insufficient and did not correspond to what was promised by TotalEnergies and that the payment took between three and five years to be made. They also described pressure from companies to accept amounts that do not allow them to buy replacement land of identical quality. Many also said they signed documents in English that they did not understand and those who refused to sign continue to face “threats of legal action and harassment from the local government.”
The NGO estimates that these “delays, lack of communication and inadequate compensation” have left many families “poorer and more insecure about their future.” For example, there are people who were self-sufficient before the oil project began and used the income from coffee, bananas and other crops to pay their expenses and now they must buy food that they used to produce, which requires them to sell assets, including livestock, or ask for loans to continue paying for their children’s school, HRW quotes.
In a letter to the NGO, TotalEnergies has defended itself against these accusations and has guaranteed that 93% of the households affected by the land acquisition project have already been compensated and that the amounts met the “full replacement value” standard. . According to the company, if there has been a delay in payments, it has been due to delays in “the finalization of the various legal and legal documents necessary for the acquisition of land” and to the limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Let’s say someone wants one of your cows. A price is agreed upon, but you don’t get paid for five years. During that time you have to take care of the cow, but you cannot use the milk that she gives. It doesn’t make sense,” Cattle Rancher, 50, compared to HRW investigators, referring to late payments.
TotalEnergies has stressed that “great attention continues to be paid to respecting the rights of affected communities” and has reaffirmed its commitment to international standards on land acquisition. At the same time, Atacama Consulting, the environmental consultancy that facilitates the acquisition of land for TotalEnergies EP Uganda in the Tilenga fields, rejected the accusations that people were pressured to sign and considered that the compensation was as stipulated by international rules.
“There is a significant gap between the commitments of TotalEnergies to pay adequate compensation and the reality on the ground,” responds HRW in its report, in which it urges the French company and all those involved in the financing, construction and operation of the project to ensure that the livelihoods of affected households are restored to pre-project levels.
threat to biodiversity
According to HRW and other NGOs, this project in Uganda and Tanzania also raises broader environmental concerns, as the pipeline passes through sensitive ecosystems, including internationally important protected areas and wetlands, posing a threat to the biodiversity on which communities depend premises for their livelihood.
“EACOP is also a disaster for the planet and should not be finalized,” Horne ditch. In addition, the project will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions due to the burning of fossil fuels. The Climate Accountability Institute estimates that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from this pipeline in 25 years of use will reach 379 million tons, a figure equivalent to Australia’s emissions in 2020.
As EACOP continues to be built, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading authority on climate change, warns that new fossil fuel projects cannot be built if the world wants to. achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and limit the worst impacts of climate change. Civil society groups from Uganda and Tanzania, a 2022 European Parliament resolution and several statements by UN special rapporteurs have been in favor of suspending the project, recalls HRW.
TotalEnergies reported in March 2023 that it still needed to get 3,000 million dollars (2,746 million euros), the equivalent of 60% of the total investment, for the pipeline to go ahead. HRW estimates that, so far, “at least 24 financial institutions and 23 insurance companies have publicly stated that they are unwilling to support the project due to its climate, environmental and humanitarian risks.” “Financial institutions considering financing EACOP should steer clear of this project and instead help Uganda realize its significant clean energy potential,” Horne says.
Because, although this African country has significant energy needs, it has other “cleaner” options to achieve its objectives, without the need to further impoverish those who are in the path of the gas pipeline or contribute to aggravating climate change, concludes HRW .
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