The African Institute For Energy Governance (AFEIGO) wants President Museveni to stop Total Energies from putting up another oil drilling rig in the Murchison Fall National Park.   

The Energy activist group, which has been fighting for land rights and environmental concerns in the oil-rich Albertine says together with other groups, wrote to the President urging against the deployment of a second rig in the park.   Uganda Radio Network has not seen the said letter. 

However, AFIEGO in a statement issued on Friday said, “Oil drilling in the park is having catastrophic impacts on especially elephants, which are sensitive to vibrations from the rig. The elephants are increasingly moving away from the park and into communities where they have caused deaths and immense loss of crops,”  

TotalEnergies E&P Uganda (TEPU) began drilling in the Murchison Fall National Park in July 2023 when it deployed the SINOPEC 1503 rig, – a state-of-the-art automated rig known as the “walking rig”   Total Energies planned to drill 426 wells which included include (200 water injector wells and 196 oil producer wells on 31 well-pads located in Nwoya and Buliisa districts.  

At the time, TotalEnergies said it was abandoning drilling some of the well pads in the Murchison to avoid the environmental footprint. Bob Felix Ociti, the Manager in charge of Operations and Compliance at Petroleum Authority (PAU), confirmed this information in July 2023.  

TotalEnergies Tielnga project consists of nine (9)  Onshore fields with one (1) field in the Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) – North of River Nile and eight (8) fields in the South of the Nile (outside the park). James Berya Opio, the Upstream Project Coordinator, Tilenga Project last month told the Second Annual Joint CSO Conference on oil and gas that the three rigs mobilized for the drilling operations had completed drilling 47 wells. 

Daily Monitor in an article titled “Fight over Total’s $4b oil works inside Murchison National Park” reported that there was a standoff between the Energy Company and the Petroleum regulator over plans to deploy a second rig in the Murchison. PAU is required by law to monitor and regulate the activities of licensed oil companies operating in Uganda.

Is Drilling of Oil Driving Away Elephants?

Recently there have been reports about a surge in elephant crop raids in areas neighboring all the major national parks hosting the two species of elephants found in Uganda. 

TotalEnergies last year said the type of rig deployed in the Murchison was designed to ensure that noise from it does not disturb the wildlife including the elephant.  However, the allegations linking elephant crop raids to the drilling of oil the Murchison keep on emerging including in the statement that AFEIGO and other civil society actors wrote to President Museveni. 

Simon Takozekibi Nampindo, a conservationist with is World Conservation Society (WCS) told Uganda Radio Network that he did not like the elephant movement to oil developments.

“That is what we are trying to study. That is why we put collars so that we can monitor their movement. Know where they are ranging, do they come back, do they stay in those places, and what is stopping them from continuing,” said Nampindo, also WCS Uganda Program Country Director.

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