Uganda’s oil quest seen as threat to biodiversity

Uganda’s oil finds in the Albertine Graben, involving Britain’s Tullow Oil  threaten biodiversity there, an environmental body says.
Foreign companies continue to make hydrocarbon finds in western Uganda on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, with estimated reserves of two billion barrels and $500 million invested by the end of 2008, added Reuters.
There are four companies exploring for crude in the area with four blocs still open.
“Although environment impact assessments have been undertaken, and mitigation measures proposed, the current activities are already having impact on wildlife, the ecosystem and the human environment,” the National Environment Management Authority said in its 2008 annual report.
The Albertine Graben has mountain gorillas and monkeys, the golden monkey and 42 bird species as well as Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and other national parks, the semi-autonomous body said.
In March, NEMA approved an early production scheme by Tullow Oil after moving the proposed site 2 km (1.2 miles) from the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve.
Early production of crude has been a bone of contention between the government and oil explorers, observers say. Uganda has said it wants to build a large refinery and use the oil domestically before considering exports.
Analysts say a refinery would cost billions of dollars and take years to construct. Any export of Uganda’s waxy crude would also require a heated pipeline, they say.