TOURISM SECTORAL REPORT RAISES OIL DRILLING CONCERNS
The annual report by the Ministry of Tourism, in conjunction with the World Bank, has raised broad concerns over the level of future drilling and production of oil in the main concession blocks presently being explored. Located in the Albertine Graben, part of the Great African Rift Valley, several drilling sites are located inside national parks, mainly the Murchisons Falls National Park, the Semliki National Park and the Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is next on the list for exploration drilling in the Southern, aka Ishasha sector leading to the gorilla parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga.
Fears have been circulating amongst the conservation fraternity over the removal of drilling mud, thought to be highly toxic as well as the broad restoration of areas affected by drilling, once the well heads have been secured, and while past concessionaire Heritage Oil, which since sold their interests to partner Tullow Oil, itself farming down to Total of France and the Chinese national oil company, has at the time repeatedly offered free and unfettered access to exploration and restoration sites for this correspondent to ascertain the level of attention given to the entire complex of environmental protection and mitigative measures employed by them. Other oil companies have not been that accommodating and therefore come under increased scrutiny with the pending question what they might have to hide if they are not willing to openly disclose and grant access to the media.
Ministry officials though were tightlipped with one regular source claiming that anything to do with oil in Uganda was a highly sensitive matter almost treated as state secrets and that intervention from above was always on the cards should the Uganda Wildlife Service, the Ministry or other bodies get too close to the core when requiring evidence of mitigative measures or needed to investigate potential toxicity and issues related to potential spillages and the preparedness of the companies to instantly deal with them and not waste days to get equipment on site.
The Albertine Graben is home to 5 national parks and several forest and game reserves and considered as one of Ugandas premier biodiversity hot spots besides being a major source of water through the Semliki River, Lakes Albert, Edward and George and of course the River Nile traversing the Murchisons Falls National Park before flowing through a section of Lake Albert and then moving towards the border with South Sudan at Nimule.
Watch this space for regular updates right here on the future of oil exploration in Ugandas parks and wilderness areas and how it will play out in the medium and long term.