This is the first publication on the baseline data for the Albertine Graben. This report is a follow up of the Albertine Graben Environment Monitoring Plan published in 2010 to track changes as a result of the development of Oil and Gas activities. This report benchmarks the situation on key environmental resources in the Albertine region.
In 2009, Uganda was scheduled to start early production of Oil and Gas and many strategies were put in place to assess the impacts of the activities with mitigation measures proposed. The process started with a scoping exercise to identify monitoring indicators and Valued Ecosystem Components. Based on this five thematic areas were identified namely:
- Physical and chemical
- Business and management
The below maps shows a general overview of petroleum interests and protected areas in the Albertine Graben area.
Wetlands in the Albertine Graben are affected directly by drainage channels and in-filling especially those close to growth centres. Some have been converted to farmlands. Wetlands are likely to be affected further with the development of oil and gas industry. These have to be gazetted and protected as stipulated in the law.
Lake Albert and Albert Nile contribute significantly to the annual fish production in Uganda (close to 160,000 t). The small pelagic fishes (B. nurse and N. bredoi) contribute over 80% of the fish catches of Lake Albert and similar high abundance of these species is anticipated in the fish biomass in the lake compared with other fishes. Combined, they also contribute the gross revenue from Lake Albert (41.6480) from the fisheries and provide employment opportunities to the fishers and the women who are the main players in post-harvest processing of the catches. These have to be monitored as high influx of people due to the oil activities might lead to over fishing.
The Albert Graben is one of Africa’s biodiversity hot spot. Its species richness in both fauna and flora found both in the protected areas and in its numerous waters is endemic in this part of the world. The exploration of oil and gas has raised concerns and a lot of biodiversity is likely to be lost or become extinct because of the interference with species habitat. There is need for sustainable management of oil and gas resource to avoid loss of biodiversity.
The land cover in the graben is composed of subsistence farmland, woodlands, grassland, shrubs and water bodies. This has significantly changed due to increased commercial and subsistence farming, deforestation and human settlement. These changes are expected expected and destruction is expected to increase with the oil and gas development.
Physical / chemical issues
The PH of the soil is basic therefore, the high quantities of trace elements and pollutants will remain in insoluble form hence unavailable for plant uptake. The average pH of the soil is below 6.5 which is at the borderline to acidity which favours solubility of heavy metals. The soils ecosystem in the Albertine Graben is highly fragile, which calls for great care during and after petroleum exploration to ensure that the pH of the soil is not altered.
Albertine Graben, is endowed with abundant water resources with surface water including streams/rivers and lakes straddling a large part of the region. This hydrology/hydrogeology offers a conducive source of livelihood for fishing, domestic water use as well as transportation among other uses. Recent years have witnessed degradation of the quantity and quality of the water resource. This poses threats to among others, human health, health of aquatic ecosystems and the use of water for production. The situation is exacerbated by threats from climate change that increase variability of and effects from extreme water resources occurrences. Consequently, priority investments need to be assessed based on a reasonable assumption of future water availability. Water development projects need to be designed based on sound water resources management and efficient use of available water resources.
The Albertine Graben consists of multilingual society. The discovery and subsequent development of petroleum resources will have both positive and negative impacts on the environment and society in both the short and long-term. These impacts include changes in livelihood patterns including agriculture, fishing, hunting and eco –tourism. This will in turn have direct impacts on economic and cultural dimensions of the community. A good monitoring system of societal changes enables the stakeholders to easily understand, predict, minimize, prevent and/or mitigate adverse impacts. It will also help to provide insight into the nature of positive impacts, how these can be scaled up as well as establishing the state of the environment and society during the petroleum development process.
Business and management
The oil and gas industrial development in the Graben presents tremendous prospects for economic growth in the region. These developments may impact on existing businesses or even stimulate creation of new ones. The Albertine Graben has the largest number of protected areas (PAs) including national parks, game reserves, water bodies (lakes and rivers) and large number of endemic species which indeed are significant in the tourism industry. This calls for systematic monitoring of the environment to ensure sustainable business within the region.