In an effort to build the capacity of her staff to manage impacts of oil and gas activities in wildlife protected areas, Uganda Wildlife Authority facilitated its staff to carry out a study tour to Ghana in June, 2014. The team comprised of Mr. John Makombo, the Director of Conservation, Mr. Edgar Buhanga, the Senior Planning and EIA Coordinator, Ms. Justine Namara, the Senior Planning and EIA Officer, Mr. Tom Ebong Okello, the MFCA Conservation Area Manager and Mr. Moses Dhabasadha, the Oil Monitoring Warden based in MFCA. The purpose of the study tour was to learn the best practices in the oil and gas sector. Ghana discovered oil in 2007 and the country started production in 2011. Currently oil is being produced from the Jubilee Field in the Atlantic Ocean about 60km away from the Ghana shoreline. The study tour was organized by the Petroleum Department of the Ghana Environment Protection Agency (EPA) equivalent of NEMA in Uganda.
Although Ghana's oil activities are offshore there are similarities on how negative environmental impacts are being handled by the mandated agencies. The study involved a number of meetings and field visits. Meetings were held with both government agencies including the wildlife division, forestry and NGOs and the Wildlife Society. The team went on a field visit to Takoradi coastal city where a gas processing plant is being constructed by Ghana Gas Company Ltd. The Company is also finalizing the construction of a gas pipeline from the gas processing plant to the distribution points. While in Takoradi, the team also visited Zeal Environment technologies, a company that treats and disposes off waste from petroleum industry. This company receives waste from the Jubilee field and treats and later disposes it on land.
The team learnt that it is very necessary to build capacity of institutions that manage impacts of oil activities in terms of personnel and equipments. The rapid response equipments to report any impact that may result from the oil activities given the sensitivity of our Albertine environment is paramount. During pipeline development, sensitive ecosystems including forests and wetlands were avoided which helped to minimize impacts on the environment. Overlapping the pipeline and the existing hydropower line corridor has minimized the footprint, and is an important lesson too here in Uganda. Involvement of all stakeholders in pipeline corridor selection is and will be important when Uganda decides on this.
By visiting the Gas processing Facility the team appreciated the kind of footprints associated with such developments. In our situation the central processing facilities will also have such footprints. Given the level of the footprints, it would be important that all support infrastructure be located outside of the highly sensitive ecosystems to minimise damage. The team recommends such tours for institutions that are charged with ensuring that impacts of oil and gas are minimized to protect Uganda's natural heritage.
by: Justine Namara - Senior Planning and EIA Officer