On Thursday, September 15, the European Parliament passed an emergency resolution by a large majority denouncing the consequences of oil mega projects in Uganda and Tanzania, particularly two projects from French multinational TotalEnergies: Tilenga and EACOP. The resolution referred to “human rights violations”, “acts of intimidation”, “judicial harassment”, and “immense” risks and impacts on local communities, the environment and the climate.
TotalEnergies hopes to exploit the oil lying beneath Lake Albert in western Uganda. More than 400 wells are to be drilled from December onwards, including 132 in the protected natural area of Murchison Falls National Park. Production from the Tilenga project (190,000 barrels per day), together with another area operated by the Chinese oil giant CNOOC, will be exported to Tanzania through a 1,445-kilometer buried pipeline called the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). It will be the longest heated pipeline in the world. In total, these two projects represent an investment of $10 billion, and production is scheduled to begin in 2025 for a period of 25 years.
The European Parliament is calling for a halt to drilling in the “protected and sensitive” ecosystems and postponement of work on EACOP for a year to “study the feasibility of an alternative route” that would preserve the environment and “consider other projects based on renewable energy.” The MEPs also call for an end to human rights violations, including the “immediate release” of human rights defenders arrested in an “arbitrary” manner. And they call for “prompt, fair and adequate” compensation for those expropriated or deprived of access to their land by the Eacop project.
Expropriated people waiting for compensation
The resolution, which is non-binding but politically significant, includes the conclusions from various independent experts. It describes a danger for the environment and water resources, with inevitable oil spills and risks at EACOP’s offshore installations, which will be built “in a high tsunami-risk zone.” It also points out that the two projects could emit up to 34 million tons of CO2 per year, more than 30 times the current annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined.
Besides the environment, MEPs are concerned about the fate of the 118,000 partially or totally expropriated residents, who have lost the free use of all or part of their land for three years. The promised compensation has often arrived late if at all, and is often insufficient, so that “many farmers can no longer make a living,” explained French MEP Pierre Larrouturou (Socialists and Democrats, S&D), who wrote the motion together with three other members of his group. According to figures from Friends of the Earth, based on data from TotalEnergies, 84,500 people are still waiting for compensation.