Social and Environmental Impacts of Extractive Industries in Uganda

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The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung research organization wrote in September 2012 that, following the discovery of commercial oil reserves in Uganda in 2006, the "euphoria about the expected economic benefits is mixed with worries about negative side effects of oil production that can be observed elsewhere and the fear of the so-called 'oil curse'."[1]

Similarly, Global Witness has written that revenues from Uganda's emerging oil sector could help improve the lives of some of the millions of Ugandans living under the poverty line, but only if the sector is managed well.[2]

Social impacts

Land use issues

A 2008 Makerere University paper described how local government staff in the oil-rich Buliisa district expressed concern that land use in the area was not being planned well, and that land conflicts are likely to intensify in areas where oil has been discovered, especially warning of cross-border insecurity threats from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).[3]

Evictions around planned Hoima refinery

More than half of the residents living in western Hoima state where the government plans to build an oil refinery might get no compensation after being evicted, or walk away with next to nothing because they do not have the relevant documentary evidence of ownership of their land, All Africa reported in November 2012. The firm Strategic Friends International (SFI), contracted by the government to carry out an action plan for the resettlement of people living near the planned refinery, noted that only 41.5% of the affected households had land purchase agreements, 2.5% had tenancy agreements and only 1.4% of the landowners had land titles;[4] meaning that a great number of residents could be evicted with almost no compensation.

Over 70% of the people to be evicted living in the area - of the Alur ethnicity - are widely seen as "foreigners", according to the All Africa story, and there are also Congolese and Rwandan nationals in the area. The Banyoro, who All Africa reported to be the original tenants of land in the district, constitute only 7% of the population. Shem Byakagaba, a lawyer at the Ugandan consultancy firm Lantern, noted that "these foreign nationals are likely to have come as foreigners and just acquired idle land," and are therefore ineligible to receive compensation.[4]

Impact on traditional fishing culture

Fishing activities contribute about 12% of Uganda's GDP as of March 2012,[5] and the Albertine Graben, where the bulk of Uganda's oil reserves are found, contribute 19 percent of the total national fish catch, with 15 percent of that coming from Lake Albert alone.[6]

Oil in Uganda reported that the discovery of oil in 2006 has transformed Uganda's fishing industry. New roads built for trucks servicing oil companies has opened up new markets for fishing villages, and local government revenues have increased hand-in-hand with tax collection. But the discovery of oil also prompted many outsiders from other parts of Uganda to migrate to the region with the hope of benefiting from the oil. Fishermen from the Democratic Republic of Congo have also migrated to the Ugandan side of Lake Albert. This has led to declining fish stocks: the total catch of fish from Lake Albert has fallen from around 120,000 tonnes per year in the 1990s to less than 60,000 tonnes by March 2012. The fishing sector now employs some 700,000 Ugandans, compared to less than 100,000 twelve years ago.[5]

The National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) wrote in January 2012 that fishing as a livelihood activity has been severely disrupted by oil exploration activities.[7] Pollution from oil production and other factors, such as underwater lights installed on oil rigs, could eventually further damage fishing activities in the region.[8]

Environmental impacts

The Makerere University paper reported that local government staff were not involved in environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in oil-producing districts, and that EIAs were "a matter of formality". Furthermore district environment officers reported that they lacked the resources to visit actual oil wells, among other things, to ensure that the oil companies comply with agreed environmental standards.[3]

Nature Uganda conducted an environmental impact study that highlighted several potential issues with oil activity in the Albertine Graben, where most of Uganda's proven petroleum reserves are located. The report states that oil and gas activity in this area "challenges the adequacy of existing regulatory regimes" and went on to list concerns including: ground water contamination, air quality pollution, release of gases and oil drilling chemicals to the surface, mismanagement of waste, and the adverse health effects of pollution to humans and other life forms.[9]

The report also referenced Dr Robert Kityo a biologist at Kampala's Makerere University, who has said that much biodiversity in Uganda's oil areas is likely to be lost through habitat fragmentation, with some species risking extinction.[9]


  1. "Oil Production in a Social Market Economy", Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Uganda office, 14 September 2012.
  2. "Uganda", Global Witness, retrieved 17 November 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Oil Discovery in Uganda: Managing Expectations ", Economic Policy Research Centre and Makerere University, retrieved 29 November 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Uganda: Many Could Miss Out On Oil Refinery Compensation", All Africa, 6 November 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Oil opens markets for fish, but also brings too many fishermen", Oil in Uganda, 24 March 2012.
  6. "Gov't Lacks Money to Monitor Impact of Oil Production on Fishing", Uganda Radio Network, 19 September 2012.
  7. "Raising Women’s Voices: Community perspective", National Association of Professional Environmentalists, January 2012.
  8. "Oil exploration destroying environment", The Independent, 26 January 2012.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Effects of oil and gas exploration in the albertine rift region on biodiversity", Nature Uganda, 2 August 2012.