Oil Pipeline, potential impacts on natural habitats.

Fetching water in one of community wells

The proposed East Africa crude oil pipeline (EACOP) that will cover 1445kms from Buseruka sub county- Hoima via Masaka, Mutukula (in Uganda) and Birahaamulo, Shinyanga and Tanga port on the Ocean coast of north Eastern Tanzania, expected to transport 200,000-230,000 barrels of crude oil per day. This electrically heated pipeline will cost approximately $3.5 billion and will be the longest in the world.

As the cheapest alternative mode of large quantities of oil and gas transportation, pipeline construction over the world has been associated with serious environmental and social implications, which if not managed well could negatively impact on the overall human development in the region.

The US government’s use of a 2014 environmental review to justify issuing a presidential permit for construction of Keystone XL – the cross-border pipeline violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act and was quashed last year by Judge Morris.

Back here, EACOP, approximately 70% of the Hoima- Tanga pipeline length, will be in Tanzania, Tanzania has already set aside almost 40% of its land under protected status and this forms the basis for its growing Tourism industry, which in 2014 contributed USD $1.5bn, which is 14% of its Growth Domestic Product (GDP) and makes 21.9% of total exports in Tanzania. It also employs 1,337,000 people which is 12% of total national employment both directly and indirectly. This definitely will have serious implications on environment and its protected areas and also on social and economic developments.

These environmental  impacts are going to be immense where in terms of IUCN protected areas, the pipeline overlaps 13 IUCN protected areas of which eight (8) are forests, two(2) are game reserves, one (1) wildlife management Area (WMA) and two national parks. Approximately 300 Km of pipeline will be built with in IUCN protected areas. (IUCN protected areas are defined by IUCN as an area of land/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of Biological diversity and of natural and associated cultural resources and managed through the legal or other effective means. This the world data base on protected Areas (WDPA) compiled by UNEP-WCMC.

The Hoima –Tanga pipeline passes through the Tarangire national park of IUCN category, Biharamulo Game reserve and the Mkomazi National park both of IUCN category. This compromises the natural biodiversity and its ecological structure and general environment.

The pipeline also overlaps 7 key biodiversity areas (KBAs) 6 of them being in Tanzania and 1 in Uganda. KBAs- these are sites that contribute to the global persistence of Biodiversity, including vital habitats for impacted plant and animal species in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems.

The construction and operation stages are the ones, which could be the most impactful to protected areas and KBAs, mainly because of bush clearing, soil extraction for the pipeline, as well as associated roads and settlements which could lead to fragmentation and enhance risks of poaching. During operation phase, there are possibilities of Oil spills or leakages, this is because Albertine rift is an active seismic area. Oil spills on land can be localized however, the impact on protected areas and Key Biodiversity Areas can be severe if the oil reaches the water sources within these areas.

Moe than 500 km of the pipeline are within the Lake Victoria basin, this means any spill or leakage could contaminate a tributary of the lake and the lake it’s self-leading to disastrous effects for the population and natural resources. Potential impact on wetlands, pipeline overlaps several flood plains, marshes and in dry areas which are essential for migratory species as well as seasonal crops. This is not to forget other roles of wetlands especially acting as Buffer for wind, floods and home for rare birds and reptiles.

The estimated 300 km2 land in protected area will be cleared for the pipeline will lead to previously inaccessible areas, temporally structures and roads and monitoring posts and settlement that could lead to fragmentation of these important habitats. Lastly, Petroleum activities require large areas and a large labor force. They are known to have a high footprint due to the many activities and infrastructure development associated with the oil industry. Therefore, extra consciousness must be observed in EACOP Environmental impact assessment (EAI).

The writer is a Programmes Coordinator

Citizens’ Concern Africa (CICOA)

Sam Mucunguzi










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