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Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Massive oil project approved

The World Bank has approved funding for a controversial oil and pipeline project in Chad and Cameroon.

The bank will provide loans amounting to 200 million dollars to kick start the project.

Environmental groups say the $4bn construction project, one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, is a threat to wildlife in the rainforests of Cameroon.



When people stand up and call for equal distribution and sharing from these projects, they are often threatened.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson

The project involves drilling 300 oil wells in Chad and building a 1,000km pipeline through Cameroon to the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of the money will come from a consortium led by the United States oil company, Exxon Mobil.

They say it could provide as much as $2bn dollars for Chad and $500m for Cameroon over a 25-year period.

Concerns

Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth say the project threatens the black rhino, elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas that live in Cameroon's rain forests.


Nigerian oil facility
In Nigeria oil companies are heavily criticised

According to the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network the project will also have "serious, irreversible environmental repercussions", destroying rainforest areas and threatening indigenous forest peoples such as the Pygmies.

FoE spokesperson Andrea Dubin says the project is also risky because the pipeline traverses key water and river systems in Chad and Cameroon and there is a serious possibility of leakage.

She also contends that there are no really good examples of oil extraction in North Africa where local communities benefit and poverty is alleviated.

There has also been strong criticism from human rights groups inside and outside Chad who accuse the government of President Idriss Deby of threatening to kill local opponents of the new oil wells.

Such critics also believe the money is more likely to end up in the pockets of corrupt politicians than helping the poor.

Fears are also being expressed that the arrival of oil will destabilise Chad further, as Chadian leader Idriss Déby and armed opponents - known as "politico-military" groups - fight over the spoils

World Bank gamble

World Bank officials agree the project is something of a gamble but believe the environmental impact should be minimal.


President Deby of Chad
Will oil fuel the armed opposition to Chad's President Deby?

They also say controls have been put in place to make sure the money is not squandered by the Chadian Government.

A recent World Bank report argued for a radical rethink of aid to Africa saying that more grants should go directly to non-governmental organisations who have roots in their communities, by-passing often corrupt and inefficient governments.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Business
The World Bank defends itself
16 Mar 00 | Business
Plutocrat for the poor
18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
World Bank considers Timor inquiry
05 May 00 | Africa
Crisis on all fronts for Chad
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