Activists Doubt NEMA's Capacity to Handle Oil Waste

2659 Views Arua, Uganda

In short
Environmentalists and legal practitioners have questioned the capacity of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to manage the waste produced during exploration by the oil companies.

Environmentalists and legal practitioners have questioned the capacity of National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to manage the waste produced during exploration by the oil companies.

This comes after the companies that have been carrying out exploration in various locations in the country have been accused by the local residents of abandoning the waste generated from their activities without proper disposal.

Some of the companies named in the poor management of waste include Neptune Uganda that has been doing oil exploration in West Nile and Tullow oil that has the highest stake in the Albertine Grabben.

Robert Ddamulira, the Energy and Climate manager at World Wildlife Fund, says since the oil sector business started, NEMA has just been involved in doing small Environmental Impact Assessments for oil companies leaving the surrounding areas as if they will not be affected by oil exploration.

He says because of this, wildlife habitat has been destroyed through deforestation and soil erosion caused as result of heavy machines moved to the exploration areas. Ddamulira says water sources have been polluted with toxic substances from the exploration sites.

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So far, 65 testing wells have been drilled by the companies in the Albertine region out of which 58 have been confirmed to have an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil.

Shem Byakagaba, a private legal practitioner doubts whether NEMA has capacity to handle several environmental issues that have come up with the oil sector because they are still using laws that were passed when the country had not yet discovered oil.

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Esther Obailkol, the Executive Director of Uganda Land Alliance, says that in order to avoid major problems in future, government needs to intervene urgently to address the issue of low capacity of its agencies to handle the emerging issues associated with the oil sector because this will impact negatively on the population in future.

Naomi Karekeho, the NEMA Public Relations officer says they are trying but they have only two officers monitoring the entire Albertine Graben. She adds that two more staff are being hired but they will still not be enough.
According to her, all the companies have been operating within the law and that is why they involve them in carrying out the environmental impact assessment before doing test drilling in any part of the country.

Uganda discovered its commercially viable oil wells in 2006 after earlier attempts failed but civil society activists say since the oil was discovered government agencies such as NEMA have failed to fulfill their mandates because of the weak laws.


About the author

Ronald Batre
Ronald Batre is so passionate about journalism that he did not wait to finish school before he started his career. This is how he started with Radio Paidha, The West Niler, Daily Monitor newspapers and later with Radio Pacis as Assistant News Editor.

To be allowed to practice his passion, Batre had struck a deal with his parents. He would complete his education. He kept his word and went through school while suporting himself with his journalism.

Entering the workplace so young attuned Batre to the plight of the youth and those who seek employment. Apart from that, he is interested in reporting about politics, local government, business and the environment. A witness to some of the destructive impact of the Lord's Resistance Army rebellion in northern Uganda, Batre is interested in reporting about peace building efforts too.

Uganda Radio Network's former Gulu bureau chief, Batre is now based in Kampala. He is URN's main politics correspondent. He has been a URN staff member since 2009.