The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) board of directors has finally approved the operational guidelines for oil monitoring within Murchison Falls National Park. The guidelines cover the areas of animal health, poaching, illegal tourism, operations and coordination, site restoration, pollution and animal kills among others.
Under these guidelines the company prospecting for oil in the protected area shall meet all the costs of any wildlife health problems that might result directly from their activities and it shall be agreed upon between the company and UWA. Exotic, alien pets and domestic animals shall not be introduced in the protected areas in contraventions of sections 26 and 21 of the wildlife act.
They also state that “restoration of sites shall commence not more than one month from the time of completion of activity, restoration shall be considered satisfactory after certification by NEMA”.
Animals have the right of way according to the UWA guidelines to Oil companies in Murchison Falls National Park.
About animal killings, the guidelines stipulate that companies shall observe speed limit of 40km/h with in the park and the animals have the right of the way. Companies shall promptly report all accidents involving wild animals to protected area management and shall be liable for any wildlife killings made by the company’s staff or their sub-contractors.
Also the companies shall compensate for any wild animal kills as result of oil and gas related activities at rates agreed upon.
The guideline is also strict on the issue of hooting while in protected areas, feeding wild animals being prohibited, molestation or harm of wild animals, destruction and defacing of wild animals are also prohibited. Companies shall also be liable for any illegal activities like poaching carried out by the staff and subcontractors.
The oil and gas companies operating in protected areas shall not flare within the protected areas shall have mechanism to monitor and respond to oil and gas spills, by using remote sensors and automatic shut-down valves. Polluter pays principle shall also apply within the protected areas. The same guideline also says companies shall be required to seal off waste management facilities and ensure that no wild animal access these facilities.
They are also expected to carry out routine water tests and disseminate information from test results, shall sprinkle water on access roads to minimize dust and observe air, noise soil and water quality standards as stipulated in the National Environment Regulations.
Charles Tumwesigye, the Deputy Director of Conservation at Uganda Wildlife Authority, says this approval now gives them the necessary force to act. Tumwesigye says before the approval, it was difficult to hold oil companies accountable. He says the final copy of the guideline is being printed and will be distributed to many stakeholders.
Tumwesigye says “the guidelines are in place, there will be no excuse for oil companies to flout the operational procedures. Currently, Total E&P is the only oil company operating in Murchison Fall National Park. Earlier on, reports had emerged that their activities within the park is scaring away wild animals from their usual habitats. However, the company at the time said they were employing the best practices to minimize the impact of exploration on the wildlife”.
Source: Guide To Uganda