The burgeoning oil and gas industry in the Albertine region has led to various developments in the region ranging from infrastructure, employment, health and education. There has been the construction of roads like the Kaiso Tonya and different health facilities. An increase in business opportunities which has led to increased demand for goods and services thus resulting into increase in revenue to the government.
The bursary scheme by the government and some oil companies has enabled students to go abroad to study programs in oil and gas. The Kyakaboga resettlement for the people who were evicted from the refinery area in Kabale was welcomed as a remedy to homelessness, however, inasmuch as it’s a good practice the government needs to fasten the process which will ensure that influx of people in the area is managed through a holistic approach with multifaceted interventions.
However, there is a big deficit on the understanding of local content coupled with mixed understanding in regard to the local content in terms of what it means and what must be done by the local and national level stakeholders. The ‘’local content song ‘’needs to be unlocked and practically implemented and visibly seen in communities. The government’s approach in implementation of local content is too slow. From interactions with locals in Nwoya, Buliisa and Hoima reveal limited knowledge and awareness on local content.
Most people have limited information on various opportunities in the sector. Notwithstanding these benefits however, there are high prospects in regard to the oil and gas sector which raises a lot of anxiety for the communities. Managing these anxieties require effective communication strategies and mitigation of associated challenges that may arise as a result of failure to manage the different expectations of different stakeholders. Unclear procedures of land acquisition and resettlement. The cut off dates and time of compensation. The value attached to the land remains unsatisfactory according to the communities hence the feel of inadequate compensation. This has been an issue for a long time and measures to address it locally and nationally remain wanting. During resettlement there was no consideration of the source of livelihood for the community members such as the fishing community’s dependence on fishing for their livelihood. Cultural norms were also not considered.
The public finance management Act 2015 provides for sharing of royalty between the central government and local governments in the Albertine region. However there is lack of clarity among the local population on how this will be done by government since there is no accountability mechanism for the beneficiary districts which leaves a gap that needs to be addressed.
Environmental health and safety concerns also seem to remain on paper. The locals have a worry over the likely environmental impacts concern in the pipeline passage under water bodies like River Nile which may have some effects on the consumable water due spillage. This was however disputed during a Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom regional dialogue which was held in Hoima last year attracting attendance of duty bearers from the region, heads of departments and national stakeholders, CSOs, and ministry of energy although the suggested measures stand a test of time.
The local people in the Albertine also claim that the government never comes down to consult them but instead imposes projects hence making follow up by community members and available governance structures such as local councils a challenge. There is therefore need to effectively utilize the existing structures established by government to make information reach out to the local people. These include; members of parliament, RDCs, technical staff and district chairpersons. When it comes to addressing such issues, you see the nonchalance of our leaders with arms akimbo.
Effect of the sector on women also deserves mention. The extractive industry has affected women in the Albertine immeasurably. Husbands have sold off land and women left homeless. This calls for need to bring more women on board to prepare them for the challenges therein.
Oil companies should be guided by district local governments on social investments. At least the investments should be demand driven rather than supply based. Some communities have pressing needs which they would at least prefer to be addressed than what some experts somewhere may seat and dictate. Corporate social investments should therefore be done with consultations from the beneficiaries other than plans being made from the Centre and imposed on the people. A case IN point is, giving people maize flour and beans as a livelihood restoration instead of getting their pressing needs and how they can be prepared for the inevitability of a money economy. CSOs and local governments must prepare communities on standards and how best to Understand laws and regulations in regards to oil and gas if people are to benefit from the sector.
A recent visit to Nwoya shows how animals continue to destroy crops because oil was discovered in the game park and the ongoing activities are causing animals to move into the community destroying people’s livestock and putting people’s lives at a risk. For instance, there is increase in the number of animals that threaten children at Paraa primary school since it has no fence round it. This calls for a review meeting between the NEMA officials and district local government in the Albertine on the emerging environmental concerns and draw a road map to have them addressed through joint effort. There should also be joint environmental monitoring.
The national environmental management authority and the district local leaders ought to conduct periodic joint environmental monitoring. This shall help both the district and environmental officials to provide information and regulate the companies to adhere to the implementation of the environmental action plan and waste disposal plan.
Research findings should also be shared WITH the local people instead of always restricting them between consultants. I have met a lot of technical people with a mind full of information and a heart bankrupt of love for environmental concerns in our region. Not all issues can be solved by the police, the church, or even the army but some of these issues can be solved by day to day people.
The homestead of mr olwoch whose land and merchandise faced ostracisation due to oil waste spills. His produce were rejected in the market due tofear of toxins. He couldn’t plant anything and it germinates due to the wastes as seen in the photo.Given concerns similar to the above,environment in the Albertine region needs continuous monitoring. Oil will be but for a season,the environment and its fulness will stay infinitely.