By Our Reporter
TotalEnergies EP has launched the Tilenga biodiversity programme which will address likely residual impacts that may arise from oil and gas production activities.
Tilenga project, which is part of the Lake Albert upstream development project situated in Buliisa and Nwoya districts, has capacity to produce 190,000 barrels of oil per day.
The project is partly situated in an ecological sensitive Murchison Falls National Park which is replete with mammals and birds, among others, endangered species.
“The end purpose is to “leave Murchison Falls National Park, and its surrounding landscape, in better ecological condition than if the Project had not taken place,” a press statement from the French originated oil firm, added.
The June 8 statement said one of the conditions to the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) approval was for the developer to “Design and implement a biodiversity offset mechanism to address residual impacts of the project activities in accordance with Section 115 of the National Environment Act, No. 5 of 2019.
The Biodiversity Action Plan is hinged on four key pillars including reducing human pressures and strengthening the ecological resilience of the Murchison Falls protected area through enhanced park protection and community- based management such as supporting alternative livelihoods.
Others are conservation and restoration measures for forests and their connectivity targeting protection of 10,000 hectares of natural forest threatened with deforestation and restoration of 1,000 hectares of tropical forest.
The oil firm with other ecological bodies will also protect and maintain the connectivity of habitats in the savannah and in the proximity of the Bugungu Natural Reserve by addressing threats within and around the reserve and developing schemes to support diversification of livelihoods and reduce dependency on Bugungu natural reserve.
The programme will involve working with the host community to manage and restore wetlands along the southern bank of Lake Albert through community-based management initiatives
Philippe Groueix, General Manager TotalEnergies EP Uganda said, “We are mindful of the sensitive context within which we are undertaking our activities. We have thus made a commitment to ensure that we implement action plans designed to produce a net positive impact on biodiversity. The biodiversity program will ensure a sustainable approach in working with community towards protecting and conserving the ecologically rich area in and around the Murchison Falls Conservation Area”
This approach involves the implementation of conservation and community awareness initiatives, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to achieve biodiversity gains above baseline conditions.
The programme has been developed in close collaboration with Government agencies and reviewed by international experts.
“We thank all our partners on this program, it is through these joint collaborations and consultations that we have been able to develop a robust plan to ensure that oil development activities are undertaken and can co-exist harmoniously with the environment and biodiversity. Our overall mission is to leave the environment in better condition than if the project had not taken place.” Groueix added.
The launch was attended by: Alfred Okot Okidi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of water and Environment; Dr Joseph Kobusheshe, Director Health Safety and Environment, Petroleum Authority of Uganda; Simon Nampindo, Country Director Wildlife Conservation Society; Dr Barirega Akankwasah, Executive Director NEMA; Richard Kapere, Manager Planning, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Douglas Lukwago, Business Development Manager, National Forestry Authority.
Akankwasah, said the efforts put into the programme should prove to the world, particularly at this time when activists have portrayed Uganda’s petroleum development efforts in negative light in international media, in consideration of climate change, that Uganda is committed to sustainable development.
“Investment and production of oil and gas resources will be another way of cushioning the country against adverse effects of climate change by reducing dependence on nature for energy which leads to deforestation, and it will also diversify and strengthen the economy,” Akankwasah added.