Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Oil deal 'damaging for Uganda environment'

Oil pump
The government has promised the oil extraction will respect the environment

Uganda's environment is being put at risk by a secret deal between the government and a UK oil firm, a lobby group has told the BBC.

The pressure group Platform said Tullow Oil had framed a deal with no provision for the environmental or social impact of oil extraction in Uganda.

But the firm said the deal was standard and that its company practices would ensure environmental protection.

Oil extraction has been controversial in other African countries.

In Nigeria, several militant groups claim to be fighting for a fairer share of oil wealth for local people.

And analysts say oil wealth in places such as Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria and Libya has brought little benefit to the general population.

'No secret'

Platform say they want Uganda to learn the lessons of the other countries and renegotiate their deal with Tullow.

"There are no penalties or fines for environmental damage caused in any way - including a major pipeline project through Kenya," said Platform's Taimour Lay.

Our practice as a company ensures that there are no issues with respect to environmental management
Tullow's Brian Glover

He told the BBC's Network Africa programme there was a specific clause in the deal allowing the firm to practise oil flaring - whereby excess gas is burned off.

Gas flaring is widely practised - particularly in Nigeria - but is hugely damaging to the local environment and is said to be a major cause of greenhouse gases.

Tullow's Uganda manager, Brian Glover, told Network Africa the firm had "no policy that would allow us to flare gas" and said there was "no expectation" that gas flaring would be practised in Uganda.

He said the deal with Uganda was "pretty much in line with PSAs (Production Sharing Agreements) the world over".

"Tullow, as a FTSE-listed company, is committed to the highest standards of environmental protection," he said.

"In our view, not only the legislation, but our practice as a company ensures that there are no issues with respect to environmental management."

He denied the agreement was "secret" and defended the firm's record on transparency.

Uganda's Minerals Minister Peter Lokeris has previously promised that the oil extraction would respect the environment.

He said there would be an "abundance" of officials from the country's National Environment Management Authority to oversee the process.

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