The Natural Resources Officers in Lwengo, Kyotera, and Rakai District Local Governments have said they are finding a hard time monitoring the ongoing East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project activities.
This is attributed to the lack of budgets to facilitate their movement to different communities affected by the pipeline project.
According to Godfrey Mutemba, the Lwengo Natural Resources Officer, their departments don’t have a vote for funds in the EACOP budget adding that they are incapable of following up on environment-related concerns indicated in the Environment Impact Assessment (ESIA) report.
Mutemba said that their departments need funds for capacity building, training, and transportation to supervise and make vital recommendations of the project activities.
“Currently, the lack of budgets is a common problem among all district local governments. We cannot monitor projects on such a special project and we need the government to look into our situation,” he said.
He noted that they have received a copy of areas to monitor and the environment officers and Community Development Officers (CDOs) at the district and sub-county level are waiting to do their job if they receive the funds.
He added that they need tools to aid their monitoring task after training them on what to do in the field to ensure the project activities do not endanger the environment and infringe on people’s rights.
“If we get the funding we will be in a position to make independent decisions on what we find in the field because we want the project to fairly benefit Ugandans,” he noted.
Mutemba revealed that different district local governments do not have vehicles such as cars and motorcycle that can help them to do effective monitoring of the project.
He said that EACOP is a special project which requires special interventions especially in terms of funding.
He added that they are banking on the department’s limited resources to visit affected communities, and meet the paps for interaction.
Sylvia Mirembe, the Rakai District Natural Resources Officer, said they share the same plight with Lwengo and Kyotera and there nothing to do about it.
She added that they have a limited budget that cannot support regular field visits to monitor the oil pipeline projects in the affected communities.
According to Mirembe, they are sometimes picked by NewPlan Company Ltd to accompany them to the field which compromises their independence in decision making and recommendations.
New Plan was contracted by Total-Uganda to do the valuation exercise in the project affected communities.
Mirembe noted that without budgets to monitor the pipeline activities, several eco-systems may perhaps be hindered and people’s rights violated because they cannot dispatch teams to the field.
However, Jamiru Kiyingi, the Kyotera Natural Resources officer, explained that they have not received any funds to do the monitoring although they have continued drafting their budgets and they hope for funds.
He added that they are patient since the government promised to respond to their concerns anytime.
Civil society groups are equally concerned that if the local government departments are left out of the project, then human rights abuses and environmental degradation will be inevitable.
Yisito Muddu Kayinga, the Coordinator –Community Transformation Foundation Network, said that failure to include the Natural resources departments into the EACOP budget may cost the communities and districts in the pipeline route.
He noted that several eco-sensitive areas such as lakes and rivers, forests and wetlands will be affected if the project activities are not well monitored.
He further appealed to the government to intervene and do something since people’s social welfare will be in danger in case the project activities go wrong.
He noted that the Telenga, kingfisher and EACOP projects are located in very sensitive eco-sensitive areas such as Murchison falls National Park, Budongo Forest, River Nile, L. Albert River Kibale in Rakai and Kyotera districts.
However, he noted, the environmental footprint is too large and poses serious risks not only for the people but the environment at large.
“That’s why we kindly appeal to the government to release funds for the natural resources departments to strengthen their capacity in the independent monitoring of the project to assure Ugandans of their Natural resources,” Kayinga said.