Commending the government of Uganda for publishing the seven bidders for its first Competitive Oil exploration Licences, watchdog group Global Witness has expressed concerns about the environmental risks associated with oil activities in the listed Blocks.
The Organisations in a statement says the areas identified for oil exploration are within environmentally protected areas in Virunga World Heritage site.
“All of the oil blocks in the current licencing round overlap with environmentally protected areas, but one, the Ngaji block, is of particular concern. This area covers half of Lake Edward and large part of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and forms part of the same ecosystem as Virunga – Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site” Reads the statement in Part.
Global witness also questioned suitability of some of the oil companies under consideration.
“Oil contracts can last for 30 years or more, and oil exploration can do irreversible damage to both people and environment. So choosing the right companies is vital, especially with operations taking place in such sensitive areas,” said George Boden of Global Witness.
Bodens invited the government of Uganda to take extra precaution in checking the historical records of some of the listed companies and their owners before proceeding on business to avoid threats of conflict of interest that my curtail operational due-diligence.
“The government should carry out careful checks into the background of each company and publish the details of all of their real owners to ensure that they are suitable for the job and that there is no conflict of interest,” continued Boden.
In August 2015, Global Witness published a press release raising questions about two companies that have now submitted bids, Oranto Petroleum and Glint Energy (1).
Global witness asked the government should publish the final contracts so that people can see the deal the government has signed on their behalf and the social and environmental protections they contain.