Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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In northwest Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, a controversial oil drilling project by French oil giant TotalEnergies has sparked a court case in Paris. The company, currently developing the Tilenga oilfield, is accused of disregarding human rights and environmental concerns. If the court ruling favors the accusers, TotalEnergies could face significant consequences for its pursuit of fossil fuels in Uganda.

TotalEnergies plans to pump oil from landlocked Uganda to Tanzania’s coast through a 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) pipeline, which would become the world’s longest of its kind. However, the project’s expansion into Murchison Falls National Park has drawn criticism due to potential threats to the delicate ecosystem and the livelihoods of many residents.

While some locals have benefited from land buyouts, scholarships, and development initiatives associated with the project, others have faced legal battles for opposing the $10 billion endeavor. Emily Fwachan, who sold land to TotalEnergies, expressed satisfaction with the compensation received, which enabled her to improve her family’s living conditions and establish a bee farm. However, individuals like Joselyn Katusabe, who sold a small parcel of land, struggled to sustain their livelihoods with the compensation they received.

Scovia Aheebwa, who received a scholarship from TotalEnergies, praised the opportunity it provided for her education and career. The company claims to have supported over 200 students through its scholarship program. On the other hand, individuals like Jealousy Mulimba Mugisha and Geoffrey Byakagaba refused the compensation offers, emphasizing the potential negative consequences of oil exploitation.

TotalEnergies maintains that the compensation response has been predominantly positive and defends its environmental record in the Albertine Rift, known for its rich biodiversity. The company asserts that it has minimized the impact of the project on the environment and limited the number of wells within Murchison Falls National Park.

Philippe Groueix, TotalEnergies’ general manager in Uganda, expressed confidence in a favorable outcome from the court ruling in Paris. Six non-governmental organizations have accused the company of disregarding concerns regarding livelihoods and the environment. Groueix contends that the project adheres to high social and environmental standards.

The court decision in Paris will determine the fate of TotalEnergies’ oil project in Uganda and shed light on the balance between economic interests and environmental and human rights considerations.

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