“Thank you for organising this media and environment training. I have learnt a lot but also feared a lot. I did not know that oil exploitation could impact the atmosphere, soil, water and other important aspects of life. I hope the Ugandan government is aware and ready to address the impacts of oil exploitation.”
The above words were spoken following a media and environment training that was organised in Kampala, Uganda on October 26, 2021. The training brought together oil and gas, environment, water and other journalists from national and sub-national media houses in Uganda. The journalists were trained on the potential or existing climate change, environmental and social impacts of oil exploitation in Uganda.
Uganda discovered commercial oil deposits in 2006 and currently, the Ugandan government alongside oil companies such as TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are engaged in processes to begin oil production by 2025.
At peak production, 216,000 barrels of oil will be exported from the oil fields in Western Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania and onto export markets. The oil will be transported via the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Construction of the EACOP is expected to start soon.
Some oil will also be refined at a planned oil refinery in Western Uganda. The refined oil is expected to serve East African regional markets.
With Uganda planning to produce oil at a time when scientists have said that fossil fuels must be left unexploited to address the climate change crisis, Uganda’s oil exploitation efforts have drawn concern. The fact that Uganda’s oil will be extracted from the ecosensitive and biodiverse Murchison Falls National Park and Lake Albert has also drawn concerns.
While climate change, environmental and social challenges exist, the Ugandan media was under-reporting on the same due to limited awareness of the challenges. The October 26, 2021 training by Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) sought to remedy this challenge.
Following the training, journalists from national and sub-national media houses were supported to engage with oil-affected communities to document the impacts of oil projects on forest conservation and their livelihoods. Over eight media stories were published in national newspapers and online publications as well as via key radio stations. This was commendable as it increased public awareness and create a public record of communities’ grievances.
Going forward, the media needs to be continually trained and supported to independently tell balanced, fair and accurate community stories that portray the impacts of Uganda’s oil and gas exploitation on communities and the environment. While the media is interested in telling such stories, lack of resources sometimes hinders reporting on the same.