On the 10th of April 2021, the governments of Uganda and Tanzania, alongside the French multinational Total and the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), signed the final agreements that will kickstart the construction of a controversial $3.5 billion crude oil pipeline that cuts across both countries.
Both Total and CNOOC are license holders in Uganda but can only commence drilling operations when the pipeline is completed. These sites are expected to have a combined production of 216,000 barrels per day at plateau. The upstream partners are Total (56.67%), CNOOC (28.33%) and Uganda National Oil Company – UNOC (15%). The production will be transported from the Albertine Rift Basin in Western Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania via the planned 1,445 kilometer (898 miles) cross-border pipeline, with Total, UNOC, Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) and CNOOC as shareholders. It is believed that this will be one of the longest electrically heated crude oil pipelines in the world thus requiring a significant investment.
The proposed project will have significant negative impacts on the local communities, wildlife and its habitats. It falls within sensitive biodiversity hotspots such as the Albertine Rift in Uganda which is one of the most important regions for nature reserves in Africa. It is host to over 50% of Africa’s birds, 40% of Africa’s mammals and about 20% of its amphibians and plants, it contains more vertebrate species than anywhere else on the continent. The area also has more threatened and endemic species than other regions in Africa. Population concentration within the Albertine Rift is also high with over 1,0000 per km2 in some areas. Most of these communities being extremely impoverished.
The potential risks of the pipeline include the unjust displacement of local communities, contamination of ground and surface water sources, significant carbon emissions, habitat disturbances especially in the protected areas, compromised integrity of critical wildlife corridors, increased wildlife poaching, possible oil spills in two Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas and potential job losses as a result of other impacts.
Following significant resistance efforts within the continent and beyond, financiers of the project have been withdrawing their support with the most recent being three French banks: BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole have committed not to provide financing for the Total-led East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
An unidentified source in France’s Les Echos newspaper stated that “the project is too hard to defend”.
Other banks that have pulled out of the project include Standard bank, Barclays, Credit Suisse and ANZ. Efforts are still underway to urge other financiers to steer clear of the project that proves to be unjust and risky for both the environment and the people.
This comes at a time when Total seeks to engage its shareholders in the Annual General Meeting on the 28th of May where it is expected that their strategy towards carbon neutrality will be tabled. Meanwhile there are widespread calls upon Total to consider a climate strategy that is more viable and in line with scientific requirements of cutting emissions at source by leaving the crude oil in the ground.
Oilwatch Africa calls on the governments of both Uganda and Tanzania to reconsider their plans to go ahead with this project bearing in mind the enormous social, financial and ecological risks it poses.