Threatened lakes in the Albertine Oil Rift in Uganda
Was the discovery of oil in Uganda in 2005 a blessing or a curse for its poor population? Meanwhile, it's become clear that oil exploitation is a great threat to people and the environment through corruption and misuse of natural resources. Frank Muramuzi of the Ugandan organisation NAPE visited Both ENDS on January 28th to talk about the threatened lakes in the Albertine oil rift. A number of western oil companies have a permit for mining in and around Lake Albert, resulting in large scale erosion. Chances are that Uganda will suffer from the lack of regulation and legislation around this topic, and like many African countries, will go down in the battle for oil. As members of the Ecosystem Alliance, NAPE, Both ENDS, IUCN NL and Friends of the Earth are actively involved in protecting this area.
Risks for people and the environment
The Albertine rift has the world's largest biodiversity because it's situated on the border of eastern and western species. The area around Lake Albert provides for livelihoods of four million people. The oil mining threatens fishery of the local population and erosion causes the area to be less resistant against the consequences of climate change. Human rights are violated on a large scale and the population is often forced to make way for oil companies.
Uganda has very clear laws to protect its natural areas. However, the government has made a lot of concessions to oil companies for using the natural resources. Nor the government, nor the oil companies provide any information about their plans and about the profits they gain from it. So the problem lies primarily with the management of the area. According to Frank Muramuzi this can be solved with the so-called 'Negotiated Approach' that is already being applied by Both ENDS and her partners in other areas. This approach is all about providing the local people with a voice at the negotiation table, so they can express their ideas on proper management of the area. Unfortunately the government has forbidden NGO's to inform the local communities, doing so can even lead to sanctions.
Salt mining in Lake Katwe
Lake Katwe, a little south of Lake Albert, is threatened by salt mining: in a couple of years time the surface of the lake has decreased from 7 to 3,5 km. The surrounding communities are dependant on salt mining but they haven't been using the lake sustainably which has caused the banks to erode and be surrounded by cattle keepers and salt layers. It's not NAPE's purpose to deprive the local people of their income but to teach them better ways of using the area.
NAPE has drafted a plan of action to cut back the damaging consequences for people and the environment in the region of the Albertine Lake and promote sustainable use of the area. The organization does so by providing documentaries and publications, trying to involve the government and the oil companies with the well-being of the local people, and supporting court cases against human rights violators. NAPE also supports local communities with campaigns for a better environment, for example on planting trees on the river banks. Finally, NAPE organises gatherings and trainings for the local people, they founded the 'Sustainability School' to teach local communities how to profit from their environment. Both ENDS supports these initiatives and will keep on supporting NAPE as much as possible.