HRW: The Oil Pipeline project devastates livelihoods in Uganda

An oil pipeline project by French oil giant TotalEnergies has devastated thousands of people’s livelihoods in Uganda and will contribute to the global climate crisis, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday.

The rights group said studies show that construction and operation of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) poses grave environmental risks.

“The pipeline route traverses sensitive ecosystems, including protected areas and internationally significant wetlands, posing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems that local communities depend on for their sustenance,’’ the report said.

It added that once completed, the oil pipeline project will have dozens of well pads, hundreds of kilometers of roads, and camps. It will have a 1,443-kilometer (896-mile) pipeline connecting oilfields in western Uganda with the port of Tanga in eastern Tanzania.

HRW also said the development in the oilfield will displace over 100,000 people, and although 90% of the people who will lose land to the project have been compensated, the amount is too little.

Felix Horne, senior environment researcher at Human Rights Watch, said “EACOP has been a disaster for the tens of thousands who have lost the land that provided food for their families and an income to send their children to school, and who received too little compensation from TotalEnergies.”

“They came here promising us everything,” a resident said. “We believed them. Now we are landless. The compensation money is gone.”

Human Rights Watch said “TotalEnergies and its subsidiaries should increase the amount of compensation and livelihood restoration efforts to be consistent with human rights standards.”

It also said the crude oil pipeline will affect the environment, as no new fossil fuel projects can be built if the world is to reach Paris Agreement goals and limit the worst impacts of climate change. 

“The burning of fossil fuels is driving the climate crisis,” Horne said.

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