Fresh allegations were made by some wildlife managers that the present oil exploration in areas both inside and outside national parks and game reserves was responsible for killing wildlife in the affected areas. The claims were made before the parliamentary committee on tourism where the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials made presentations and answered questions by members. No detailed figures were availed, a matter of concern to observers who had hoped for concrete evidence and not vague assertions, although one of the UWA staff did mention that “several small animals have died” before adding that others had fallen victim to collisions with vehicles, again without specifically pinning this to specific oil company-owned or operated cars.
Oil exploration and test drilling is subject to an agreed set of rules and regulations, including pre-agreed mitigation measures, between the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), UWA, and the oil companies, and those are by and large being observed and monitored, not just by these governmental agencies but also from civil society and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) who are watching developments with a hawk’s eye.
Surprisingly, the wildlife managers also took issue with the presence of security forces inside the park, in stark contradiction of past years when the presence of Army units was welcome to ensure the safety of visitors to the Murchisons Falls National Park. No clarification was received on this issue at the time of filing the report, as UWA had not responded to prompt inquiries.
Meanwhile, however, officials of the Ministry of Energy have refuted the allegations that oil exploration was the cause of wildlife deaths, leaving lingering questions as to whom one can believe, considering the contradictions in their statements. The following article in The Monitor will also shed more light on the issues at hand: www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/900556/-/wxuxmt/-/index.html .
In a related development, it was also learned that new amendments are being discussed for a law, which would allow government to cancel title deeds for plots located in wetlands, a move aimed to make it easier to evict squatters and legal land owners from such properties, to then ensure proper drainage of rain water towards the lake is restored and to protect wetlands from further encroachment and bring them back to their original state. Especially in and around Kampala, wetlands and swamps were massively encroached in recent years at a record pace, subsequently causing severe floodings in low-lying areas after heavy and prolonged rains, a situation which surely led to this new approach.