NEBBI. Local leaders and other stakeholders on Monday converged at Leosim Hotel in Nebbi town to review the environmental and social management plan which was developed by Total to mitigate the impacts of Tilenga project.

The leaders from the oil belt districts of Nwoya, Pakwach, Nebbi and Arua used the opportunity to bridge the gaps in the plan that was developed two years ago.

The meeting organized by Rural Initiative for Community Empowerment (RICE) West Nile in collaboration with Northern Albertan Network on Environment and Petroleum (NANEP) was funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The ‘Tilenga Project’ refers to the development of six oil fields within Contract Area CA-1, License Area LA-2 (North) and Exploration Area EA-1A in the Albertine Graben.

On April 15, 2019, NEMA granted a certificate of approval for environmental social impact assessment which was conducted for the Tilenga project covering oil exploration area 1 and 2 that is between Nwoya and Buliisa districts.

The Tilenga project will drill over 300 oil wells and have pipes which will connect different wells to one another to drain the oil to the central processing facility. The crude oil from all the wells will then be taken to Buliisa through the connecting pipes.

But during the review meeting, the leaders noticed that Total never consulted the different stakeholders and members of the community before coming up with the plan.

Ms Jenifer Oweka, the Pakwach district environment officer said the biggest gap she has realized is that stakeholder engagement was not done at community and district level by Total before developing the environmental and social management plan of the Tilenga project.

“Normally, when we do stakeholder engagement, we are able to hear from the community to find out what their worries and concerns are so that we can recommend what suits their interest but this was not done by Total. We are now here to fill such gaps,” Oweka said.

Similarly, Mr Pax Sakari, the Executive Director of RICE said they organized the meeting to give chance for the district leaders and other stakeholders to have their input in the plan since the project may affect the people they lead.

“So, we thought to have the environment and social management plan without the input of our people is not a good idea yet when they (Total) were developing this document, they didn’t consult. It was therefore, prime for us that the views of our people needed to be included in this document,” Sakari said.

Mr Krishna Ramji, the coordinator of NANEP observed that the engagement was to enable local government leaders especially from natural resource, environment and community development departments to review the Tilenga project.

“We have generated quite a lot of information based on the analysis of the gaps that have been identified in the plan especially the social and the environment component. These gaps and recommendations will be submitted to NEMA through Total (the developer) to help them work on a better version of the environmental and social management plan,” Ramji said.

“First of all, to transport the crude oil is going to need a lot of water to push the oil from the ground and the water will be taken from Lake Albert. This also comes with its environmental challenges and that is why, the leaders are here to review the plan,” Ramji said.

He said as a large development project, Total is required to come up with an environmental management plan which encompasses a lot of management plans for different components of the environment.

According to Ramji, the social management plan is supposed to highlight the likely impacts the Tilenga project is going to come with and also the mitigation measures so as to try to reduce the risks and some of the impacts on people.

“You saw what happened last time when there was a blockage of road because of floods at Pakwach when Tangi River was blocked for the construction of a bridge. So, if such an occurrence happens again, all these pollutants will be washed away and dumped into River Nile yet it is a source of livelihood for different components of the community,” Ramji stressed.

He said to minimize such occurrences, there is need to seek stakeholder participation which is a major requirement for such development.

Officials NOfficials pose for a group photo shortly after the stakeholders engagement in Nebbi town on Monday. PHOTO BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI.