The absence of a law to regulate the management of waste generated from the ongoing oil exploration activities in Buliisa is posing fears among the communities about the fate of their health and the environment.
The absence of a law to regulate the management of the waste from the ongoing oil exploration activities in Buliisa district is posing a danger to residents and the environment. Commercial exploration of oil started in 2006, despite the fact that oil was discovered in 1920. Despite the ongoing commercial exploration of oil in various parts of the country, however, there is no law to regulate the management of waste from the oil fields.
In the absence of any such a law, the oil exploration companies have to devise ways of managing waste from the exploration that continues to pile up. At Ngara 1 site that is managed by Tullow Oil, the solid waste is heaped on the ground and covered with black polythene material while the liquid waste is being kept in large pits lined on the sides with black polythene. But while some pits are covered with iron sheets, others are open raising fears of possible air pollution, which could pose a health risk to residents.
It was however not possible to establish the toxic levels of the waste. A number of residents close to the oil drilling site say they do not want the waste dumped in their environment saying it could be dangerous. Isaac Nkuba, a resident of Buliisa Town Council, says that they have written to the National Environment Management Authority to block the establishment of waste sites at Nyapea and Mvule villages in Ngwedo Sub County and Buliisa Town Council respectively. He says that they are worried that the oil waste could affect their health.
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Robert Byaruhanga, a member of the civil society, says that they are afraid the hazardous waste from the oil activities could damage the environment. He says it is possible for the waste, which he fears to be toxic, to spill along the way as it is transported from the drilling sites to the waste dumping sites.
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Cathy Adengo, the corporate communications manager of Tullow Oil, the major oil exploration firm in Buliisa district, says that they are currently dumping the waste at selected locations as they wait for government to establish the relevant laws to streamline waste management. She however added that the choice of the site and the actual storage of the waste has been approved and is monitored by government.
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Adengo, however, noted that the method is costly to the oil company and is not sustainable. She says Tullow Oil hopes to adopt a more effective and less costly method of waste storage once government comes up with the relevant law.
Robert Ddamulira, an Environment conservationist, says that the oil waste and other activities involved in petroleum production could lower the air quality in the areas where exploration is taking place. He explains that emission from the waste could form acid rain due to the presence of carbon monoxide, sulfur oxide and nitric oxide, which pollute the air and the soil, which are the source of life of many creatures.
Ddamulira, the Uganda Energy & Climate Manager at World Wide Fund for Nature, added that the emissions could also affect the climate overtime. Information on the internet indicates that children with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are particularly susceptible to adverse effects of nitric oxide in the atmosphere that could cause damage to lung tissue and reduction in lung function.
Besides the possibility of causing ill-health to humans, there is fear that the oil and gas developments could escalate threats to the biodiversity in the Albertine area. An Environmental Monitoring Plan for the Albertine Graben by the National Environmental Management Authority says that the wealth of biodiversity in the area is either already disturbed or threatened, while some of it is already extinct.
The report calls for land-use based incentives to land owners and users to conserve the biodiversity.
According to Ddamulira, there is need for more oil related environment education and awareness as well as incentives and penalties based enforcement of policies and legislations to discourage bad practices in the sector. Bernard Ongodia, a senior geophysicist at the Petroleum Exploration and production department, says government is in the process to review environment laws to include oil waste management.
tullow oil company
oil waste management