sharing in governance of extractive industries
BY Coletta Wanjohi,Uganda
As Uganda is preparing for production of its estimated 1 billion barrels of recoverable oil, the safety of wild animals in protected areas continues to be of concern.
There are oil wells in areas gazetted for wildlife. These include Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve,Bugungu Wildlife Reserve.
Oil is also suspected to be in Semuliki National Park and Toro Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.
So far 10 exploration oil wells have been dug in Murchison Falls Park alone with several others being expected to be dug soon.
Despite being the treasure that is expected to give an annual inflow of over 2 billion dollars into Uganda’s economy, the presence of oil in wildlife reserves is seen as a threat to the normal lifestyle of the animals.
WWF, an international conservation organization shows that the Albertine Rift is rich with animal species.
The region has 14% of all African reptiles, 19% of all African amphibians, 35% of African butterflies, 52% of all African birds and 39% of all African mammals.
“What Uganda needs to be thinking of is, how can it take full advantage of its petroleum resources without destroying this unique endowment,” says Robert Damulira , the energy and climate manager of WWF, Uganda.
With extended oil testing going on and production expected to start soon, the situation is bound to be even more uncomfortable for the animals.
“Animals have different lifestyles like mating. Some of them need some quiet to mate, and with these activities we cannot rule out possibility of their normal lives been interrupted,” says Lilian Nsubuga , the spokesperson of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Tullow Uganda, the only oil company that has successfully explored 40 oil wells in Uganda claims that so far it has not interfered with the animals’ lives. Oil activities at the park do not drag into the night. Contrary to earlier reports that animals run towards nearby homesteads because of the noise from oil activities in the park, Tullow Uganda says that the animals show interest.
“In fact the animals come closer to see what we are doing,” says Cathy Adengo the corporate affairs manager, Tullow Uganda.
This has also been supported corroborated by some officials from Petroleum Exploration and Production Department who says that there have been cases of animals moving closer to see what is happening.
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority curiosity of animals doesn’t mean they are not affected.
“Some animals can only mate during the day,” says Lillian, “so when they sense disturbance they fail to do so.”
The oil activities in protected areas have opened up good road networks in and outside the parks but UWA says that this has again led to an increase in human and vehicle traffic which is disturbing to animals.
In addition, many roads increase accessibility to large parts of the parks, most of which would better of if they remained unopened.
Some people who are now accessing the park are ignorant of wildlife conservation issues and this poses a danger even to themselves.
Queen Elizabeth National park
In Murchison falls, much of the oil activities are at the delta area where coincidentally there are many animal species that Uganda is proud of hence any miscalculation, may lead to regrettable repercussions.
There is no known study that has been commissioned by the government to research on the effect, if any ,of oil activities to the different wildlife species in the protected areas.
Amos wekesa , the chairperson of Uganda Tourism Association and also an investor in the sector, feels that excitement of oil is brought about by reluctance of Ugandans to take risks.
“ I think Uganda has gone for oil because we don’t like investing,” says Wekesa,“tourism has a lasting potential than oil.”
The question of wether Uganda should produce oil or concentrate on tourism is belated.
The signing of production sharing agreements between the government of Uganda and Tullow Uganda for the Kanywataba prospect and the issuance of Production License over the Kingfisher field paved way for a farm down. This means Tullow Uganda can now give two of the exploration areas to TOTAL and Chinese CNOOC and start preparing for production.
“ Our worry is spills,” says Wekesa, “ Tullow has had related problems in Ghana and we don’t want that to happen here since their operation is in the delta area.”
Uganda Wildlife Authority has produced oil-monitoring guidelines for the oil companies to follow while working in the parks. With these the oil companies will be expected to remove their waste immediately, conduct regular wildlife awareness for their staff and contractors, use environmentally friendly technology and ensure that the Pipeline development follow existing road networks.
The discovery of oil in the Albertine region has attracted greater focus on protected areas management and overall nature, with civil society organizations investing in research of how to ensure there is no interference with nature.
“Funding for sensitivity atlas mapping would be hard without oil, “ says Damulira of WWF “ currently WWF is implementing 3 oil related conservation projects."
We cannot afford to start a blame game at this point because we need to concentrate on how to reap from the oil that is partly in our protected areas as well as the wildlife that will remain even after the oil is gone.
Government has machinery like the Uganda wildlife Authority that can best uphold the interest of the wildlife sector if fully supported.
Tullow Uganda should also endeavor to stand by its promise of “ operating a world class development”.
Oil in Uganda is predicted to last approximately 25 years, while wildlife will last forever meaning that tourism is more sustainable.
With expectation of approximately 2.5 billion dollars annually from oil , the over 250 million dollars that tourism channels in annually from tourism may seem insignificant but those who understand the sector are still optimistic.
“ Why don’t we go the Dubai way?” asks Amos Wekesa. “ Dubai used to be highly dependent on oil 15 years ago, but it instituted a plan that saw it develop sectors like Tourism and Real Estate. Now see where Dubai is!”
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the business volume of tourism equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles.
Dubai is the second wealthiest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, after Abu Dhabi, which is the capital state. Most tourists believe Dubai’s revenues came primarily from oil that it discovered in 1966, but infact Dubai only used a moderate amount of oil reserves to generate the infrastructure for trade, manufacturing and tourism, in order to build up its economy.
About 95% of Dubai’s Gross Domestic Product is not oil-based. It was expected that by 2010, oil would account for less than one percent of Dubai’s Gross Domestic Product and tourism to produce 20% of the GDP.
Iran, which for over 100 years has been highly dependent on oil is planning to shift its attention to hunter tourism.
Statistic shows that each hunter spends up to $5,000 a day in Iran. This means that each tourist can generate revenue equivalent to 40 barrels of crude oil if the international price is $125 per barrel.
Seyyed Hassan Mousavi, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) was quoted on 22nd February 2012 by Iran Radio Culture as having said,” Effective programs must be adopted to replace oil industry by tourism industry.”
Uganda is fortunate because it doesn’t have to wait to learn the importance of the tourism sector like Dubai and Iran. The time to develop this industry is now, and the best place to start may be to protect the wildlife in oil exploration areas and enable the country to make tourism the highest earning activity.
Respect for the wildlife by players in the oil sector will inturn earn Uganda respect in future when other economies will use it as a success story on how to manage oil and tourism.
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