By LUCAS NG’ASIKE
Turkana pastoralists have rejected a proposal by Tullow Oil to move to a new exploration site at Twiga 2 oil site in Lokichar basin in Turkana South district .
Turkana elders claimed that the ongoing oil exploration in the region has interfered with pasture land and that pasture for their animals will be decimated.
The elders who met Tullow Oil and Ministry of Energy officials at Lomokamar oil site in Lokichar basin on Sunday demanded more consultations before Tullow oil is given a nod to explore oil in more wells in the region.
"As much as we need the oil, they should also respect our way of life. They should consider that our animals need pasture," said Paul Ekai, a Turkana elder.
Tullow and the ministry officials pleaded with the locals to allow the explorations to take place since more wells are needed to boost commercial viability of the oil in the region which is at the production stage.
Turkana South MP James Lomenen however said Tullow should slow the exploration until the disputed pasture land until matters are addressed.
“We appeal to Tullow oil to continue exploration in the other sites that the community earlier gave consent. But we needed more consultations with the community in Twiga 2 oil site which Tullow oil want to put a rig," Lomenen said.
The MP said the local communities were complaining that the Oil explorations has caused more harm to the environment owing to the fact that pasture land is being interfered with in the on going oil exploration activities in the region.
But an official at Tullow, who declined to be named, defended the oil exploration activities in the oil sites saying no big chunk of land can be affected by the oil drilling activities since the drilling rig is the size of a plate deeply sunk into the ground.
Tullow officials were dissatisfied that the oil exploration work in the region had been slowed by community land matters which are yet to be addressed.Turkana communities own land as a trust land.
The Energy ministry's Senior Geologist, Mr Hudson Andambi and Deputy Director, Public communication Eunice Muthamia appealed to pastoralists to allow Tullow to move to the new Twiga 2 site to continue with oil exploration in the area.
They told the pastoralists that they will reap from the oil benefits after the exploration reaches commercially viable stage.
“You are lucky that oil has been discovered in your region. But we still have a long way to go with our exploration. We need to drill more wells in order to reach the commercial threshold," pleaded Andambi.
Pastoralists further rejected a proposal by Tullow oil to put up a water project in the region as part of the firm's Corporate Social Responsibility.
They argued that the water project would increase insecurity in the region saying pastoralists would likely clash over the water source.
But Turkana deputy governor Peter Ekai also persuaded the pastoralists to accept installation of water supply in the area adding that it will add value to them.
“We know women in Turkana are most affected because they move far distances in search of water. Putting up a water project in the region will address perennial water crisis in the region," said Ekai.
The Lokichar stakeholders meeting attracted Turkana elders, Civil Society network, County executive committees and the area members of the County assembly