SECTIONS

Unite to let fossil fuels stay where they belong

Fact: We live in a global village, and chances that the repercussions of one person's actions will affect people around them are 100 per cent.

Locally, one may get away with contravening a simple “Usikojoe hapa” warning once or twice, but if they knew flies carry germs from that same spot and contaminate food or water, so people have to manage sicknesses every now and then, they would act better.

But why should this even matter? It is because you pollute the environment, everyone else suffers, however innocent they are.

It is for this same reason that fossil fuel powered industrialisation in countries thousands of miles away decades ago is causing climate disasters locally. What we think are boundaries are nonexistent in the face of diseases (remember Covid), carbon emission and many other aspects.

Today the thirst for fossil fuel is at its highest in Africa. Everyone wants to develop, arguing that this is the route rich countries in the West took. This, coupled with the longing by big companies' appetite for 'virgin' oil in Africa makes a case for willing buyer and willing seller. With this, and interests, environmental assessment may not help.

Directly affected people are guaranteed economic transformation, until of course nothing comes their way. Funny how places where such resources are discovered are also always most likely to be occupied by some of the poorest, most often seemingly marginalised communities. So by the time the firms promise job opportunities, they know the expertise needed to do some of the best paying jobs lacks locally. And so contend with casual jobs. The businesses involved come with their experts and all the money returns to their country.

Displacing such people becomes easier for governments, sometimes with little compensation for land taken permanently or temporarily.

The opportunity cost in commercial oil extraction, even in terms of agriculture alone, is never easy to recover. The value of land after such projects is never the same. The ecosystem is messed and a lot of lives and livelihoods disrupted. In the end, the profits are not for locals, but for the big companies.

This is likely to be the case in the contentious 1,443-kilometre East African Crude Oil Pipeline project from Uganda through to Tanzania’s Chongoleani Peninsular near the Tanga port. Total Energy and China National Offshore Oil Corporation are taking up this project, with at least 60 per cent stake.

Even as courts decide this case, contentious issues remain for locals along the path of the pipeline. Besides, carbon emission projected from this project is at least 34 tonnes every year, and this will not be confined to Uganda and Tanzania.

With this in mind, there is opportunity for joint efforts to do the right thing, because the big firms will spread their wings once they are done with Uganda. The loans already advanced can be used to focus on renewable energy, whose sources are not exhausted. But then again, why not just give African countries grants instead?

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