By Ibrahim Kasita
Conserving the environment and protecting biodiversity during oil and gas production will ensure sustainable and value-oriented economic progress for the current and future generations, experts have said.
This was at a half-day meeting organised by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for tour operators and other tourism stakeholders held in Kampala on Tuesday.
The meeting discussed how the tourism industry would embrace the benefits accruing from the oil and gas industry and find solutions to counter the negative impacts.
Ambassador Julius Onen, trade permanent secretary, in a speech read by Sam Mwandha, the UWA conservation director, said much of the oil discoveries occur in protected areas.
“While the discovery is exciting for the country, the overlap of the oil with the protected areas which are prime tourism destinations poses a challenge.”.
“We are reliably informed that lucrative discoveries have been made in Buligi area within Murchison Falls National Park and test- drilling is about to commence at Queen Elizabeth National Park,” he said.
There is also oil within the Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve and Kaiso-Tonya Community Wildlife Area.
Mwandha said oil exploration and development should be conducted in a manner that least destroys the wildlife resources upon which the tourism industry is based.
Uganda’s tourism industry is among the leading foreign exchange earners contributing 4% of the net gross domestic product. Total revenue earnings rose to $589m last year from $548m in 2007.
“A proactive approach is required so that the country can benefit from both resources,” Dozith Abeinomugisha, the senior geologist in the petroleum exploration and production department at the energy ministry, noted.
Fred Kabanda, the principle geologist from the same department, said development of oil and gas sector is expected to generate revenue which will increase with the level of production.
“Management of revenues to facilitate sustainable development and avoid destruction of the economy will require well-defined efforts,” he said.
The National Environment Management Authority, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Directorate of Water Development and Fisheries Department are responsible for protecting natural heritage.