Energy Development in the Albertine Rift

Uganda’s Albertine Rift is home to huge numbers of bird species, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals—including critically endangered mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and elephants. It ranks as one of Africa’s highest areas of biodiversity. The region’s mountains and forests provide many crucial resources to local people, such as clean water and fish, and draw a growing number of ecotourists. Besides its living resources, the Albertine Rift also harbors important hydrocarbon reserves. To a country that is starved for energy, harvesting these resources is essential. As Uganda develops its energy industry, WCS is working to ensure it operates sustainably, with regard for the vulnerability of the surrounding environment.

Challenges

Uganda is currently facing a huge electricity supply deficit. As of May 2006, only 3 to 5 percent of its entire population had access to electricity. The source of the vast majority of the country’s energy comes from fuel-wood, with charcoal making up a smaller proportion. As forest cover shrinks due to logging and development, wood becomes scarcer. As a result, there is great pressure to harvest the Albertine Rift’s wealth of geothermal, hydropower, and hydrocarbon reserves. Many of the areas now being drilled lie within or next to protected areas. Road construction, oil spills, hazardous waste contamination, and other consequences of poor management are degrading the precious watersheds and landscape for local communities, their livestock, and the region’s wildlife.

Goals

  • Continue to monitor the region’s wildlife and investigate changes in habitat on a large scale.
  • Secure a wildlife corridor for those wide-ranging species whose habitats have been carved up by gas fields.
  • Train Ugandans as environmental impact assessment professionals, with specialties in oil and gas operations.
  • Prevent land clearance on areas susceptible to erosion, and prevent activities that contaminate permeable soils or areas with high groundwater.
  • Prevent major construction of pipelines on fault lines, and oil spills on lake shorelines.
  • Work with companies in the region to achieve no net loss of biodiversity.

What WCS is Doing

WCS conservationists monitor and assess the impacts of oil and gas companies on the Albertine Rift, and devise solutions to mitigate the damage to local livelihoods and local wildlife. Currently, we are completing an atlas denoting sensitivity of specific landscapes to oil development activities. We are also working with oil and gas companies to implement biodiversity offsets, which requires them to compensate for negative impacts to the landscape and to local livelihoods. For example, we are protecting the fisheries of the Angara Lagoon in Lake Albert as a potential voluntary offset by an offshore drilling company. In order to ensure the highest levels of protection that we can for the region, WCS also works collaboratively with governments, environmental professionals, and local communities.
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