East Africans and environmental activists have protested an agreement to build the world’s longest heated crude oil pipeline by Uganda and Tanzania.
Led by renowned Ugandan environmental activist Venessa Nakate and Landary Ninteretse, they have written a letter to leaders of both countries; Yoweri Museveni and Suluhu Hassan, airing their concerns.
According to the activists, building the pipeline in the midst of a climate emergency is a terrible development that must be stopped.
“As East African citizens and climate activists, it is our duty to share with you and with the public our regrets and deepest concerns that these oil projects and the linked pipeline are going to have on our communities, our ecosystems, our climate as well as our future as a regional block with a common and shared destiny,” reads the letter in part.
They note that the pipeline poses significant risks to critical water sources, wetlands and several rivers in both countries. This is because approximately 460km of the pipeline will be within the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region.
“What would happen to such people in a likely scenario of oil spills? Are both countries well equipped to handle such disasters and to prevent pollution and ensure clean water access to such a large population?”
They further add that the pipeline clearly threatens one of the most ecologically diverse and wildlife-rich regions of the world.
“This is a region home to a number of unique, iconic and endangered animals which have been attracting thousands of tourists. What would happen to the local tourism industry, a source of livelihood to thousands in both countries? Will all of them be employed by the oil projects? What are the mitigation measures in place to address the strong potential loss of jobs in the tourism sector and the related local socio-economic sectors?
“Allow us the opportunity to remind you that the project is estimated to generate over 34 million tons of carbon emissions each year. This is an unimaginable prospect as the scientific community, as well as world leaders have agreed that all new fossil fuels must be kept in the ground if we are to reach the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement you have adhered to in order to avoid further catastrophic climate change.”
Nakate says their concerns are premised on the fact that Total, the largest shareholder of the deals recently concluded is a multinational which has been behind some of gravest environmental degradation and several human rights violations in Africa and beyond.
“From Algeria to Cameroon, from Libya, Angola to Nigeria. Total is gradually withdrawing from Central and West Africa over the depletion of resources and now extending its operations in Eastern and Southern Africa. We don’t want to see our dear region transformed into another Niger Delta in the name of oil business.”
In East Africa, most of the communities affected by Total’s projects have clearly indicated that they are not actually free to use the land as they wish.
“Such restrictions on rural and farmers communities have dire effects on their livelihoods, and consequently, on their right to food, education and health. Put simply, this project is undermining the well-being of over 80,000 people in both countries.”