"They come here promising us everything," said one affected Ugandan. "We believed them. Now we are landless, the compensation money is gone, what fields we have left are flooded, and dust fills the air."
Construction of TotalEnergies' East African Crude Oil Pipeline has "devastated" the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in its path while exacerbating the climate emergency, according to a report published Monday by Human Rights Watch.
HRW's 47-page report—entitledOur Trust Is Broken: Loss of Land and Livelihoods for Oil Development in Uganda—warns that "in total, over 100,000 people in Uganda and Tanzania will permanently lose land to make way for the pipeline and Tilenga oilfield development, according to calculations based on project documentation."
In addition to massive displacement, the report says EACOP "has caused food insecurity and household debt, caused children to leave school, and is likely to have devastating environmental effects."
"EACOP is also a disaster for the planet and the project should not be completed."
Local farmers told HRW they "felt pressured to sign compensation agreements in English, a language many of them cannot read," while many lamented how "unkept promises about grave relocation and an improvement in the quality of life" have eroded communities' trust in TotalEnergies.
"They come here promising us everything," one Ugandan told HRW. "We believed them. Now we are landless, the compensation money is gone, what fields we have left are flooded, and dust fills the air."
If completed, the $3.5 billion, nearly 900-mile EACOP will transport up to 230,000 barrels of crude oil per day from fields in the Lake Albert region of western Uganda through the world's longest electrically heated pipeline to the Tanzanian port city of Tanga on the Indian Ocean.
In a letter to HRW last month, TotalEnergies said it continues to "pay close attention to respecting the rights of the communities concerned” and insisted the compensation it's offering people displaced by EACOP meets international standards.
TotalEnergies—in partnership with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC)—is also leading the Tilenga Development Project, which involves the drilling of 400 wells in dozens of locations, including inside the richly biodiverse Murchison Falls National Park.
"EACOP has been a disaster for the tens of thousands who have lost the land that provided food for their families and an income to send their children to school, and who received too little compensation from TotalEnergies," HRW senior environment researcher Felix Horne said in a statement. "EACOP is also a disaster for the planet and the project should not be completed."
Full funding of the controversial pipeline remains uncertain, as numerous banks including Deutsche Bank, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley have eschewed financing the project, in part due to pressure from #StopEACOP and other activists. Only two banks—Standard Bank of South Africa and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China—are actively supporting EACOP.
"The burning of fossil fuels is driving the climate crisis," Horne said. "Financial institutions considering funding EACOP should steer clear of this project and instead help Uganda embrace its significant clean energy potential."
In an opinion piece published Friday in Uganda's Monitor, Shadia Nakazibwe, programs assistant at the NGO Environment Governance Institute, wrote that "EACOP and related oil projects threaten Uganda's efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 24.7% by 2030."
"African countries have been disproportionately affected by the climate change crisis... [which] has been largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels," Nakazibwe noted. "African countries, whose citizens will not accrue any meaningful economic or other benefits from the EACOP oil, will bear the brunt of the worsened climate crisis."
"Furthermore, Uganda is one of the most vulnerable and least prepared countries to adapt to climate change impacts," she said.
"Any economic benefits from the project," Nakazibwe added, "will be far outweighed by the project's potential negative impacts on Uganda's most prosperous green economic sectors."