In Tanzania, the TotalEnergies pipeline project is being questioned by NGOs for human rights violations

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Children tend a herd in Chemba District, Tanzania, where the 1,445km Eacop Pipeline will pass.

The scenery changes, the story remains the same: in Tanzania, the construction of the pipeline to divert the oil produced by TotalEnergies on the shores of Lake Albert is accompanied, christened East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) in Uganda. Scope of human rights violations, according to the investigation published on Wednesday October 5 by Les Amis de la Terre and Survie, the two NGOs behind the lawsuit against the French major for failing to comply with the law on large-scale due diligence, along with four Ugandan associations Company to its subsidiaries and subcontractors. This measure, launched in 2019, is the first of its kind since the law was passed in 2017.

So far, the NGOs had put the spotlight on the Ugandan part of the project, where the Tilenga production site is located, with its 400 wells including 132 in Murchison Falls National Park, the crude oil processing facilities and just 300 from Eacop’s 1,445 km. The bulk of the world’s largest heated pipeline – work on which has not yet begun – will actually traverse Tanzania before reaching the port of Tanga on the Indian Ocean, where a storage terminal is also to be built. Eacop is 62% owned by TotalEnergies, 15% each by the state oil companies of Uganda and Tanzania, and 8% by Chinese company Cnooc, which is responsible for a smaller production facility in the southern part of Lake Albert.

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“The practices are identical in Uganda and in Tanzania. The population was neither informed nor consulted as it should have been. The compensation offered to them for their lands are undervalued and, in many cases, four years after the initial acquisition deals have not been paid for.”, deplores Thomas Bart, the author of the report based on an investigation carried out in January and February 2022 along the Eacop route. Testimonies from more than 70 people were collected on anonymity for fear of government reprisals. Before he had to abort his mission, Mr. Bart himself was repeatedly prevented by local authorities from communicating with the communities affected by this $10 billion project on the Tanzanian side in the country of 62,000 people invades 231 villages.

“You didn’t ask us if we were okay with that”

“I saw how they rated my country. That’s how I found out I was affected.”says a man from the Manyara region quoted in the report: “It wasn’t at a meeting, it was at my farm. They took photos of my wife and I. I had no choice but they told me I would be compensated. » Another tells a similar scene: ” She [les employés d’Eacop] told us that our country would be affected by the project and that they would give us money. But they didn’t ask us if we were okay. » However, TotalEnergies claims to apply the highest standards when treating people displaced by large infrastructure projects. Among them are those of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, subsidiary of the World Bank) who are the first to take standard for obtaining one “free, prior and informed consent”.

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According to the NGO study, the valuation of the acquired land is also problematic. The amounts offered as compensation are considered insufficient to allow the acquisition of land of identical area. Especially since land prices have risen sharply in recent years in Tanzania, according to respondents. Due to the lack of available land, Eacop has also rarely offered compensation in kind. The consortium points this out in a document published in August 2022 and cited in the report “More than two-thirds of the counties affected by the project have less than 20% unused arable land, and some counties have less than 5% of the available land. This highlights the challenge of identifying spare land along the pipeline corridor.”.

The peasants were forbidden to till their land, rebuild their houses or plant trees

As in Uganda, the day after the assessment operations (conducted in 2018), Tanzanian farmers were told they were banned from farming their land. As well as rebuilding their homes damaged by seasonal rains or planting trees. This is to rule out contesting the assessments. But while the compensation should have been paid within six months, four years later, the non-payment led to a deterioration in the living conditions of the families. Some say they suffer from it “food shortage” and loss of income that caused them to withdraw their child from school. As a result of complaints, the cultivation of certain vegetables and grains, as in Uganda, has been approved again.

A carbon footprint of 34 million tons of CO₂ per year

The report also devotes a long chapter to the environmental impact of the pipeline, which will cross several protected areas. It is a reminder of the risks of ecological accidents associated with the seismic nature of the area and the passage of frequent hurricanes. According to a study by E-Tech, a company specializing in the extractive industry, this reality should lead Eacop Strengthening of its prevention systems, in particular by increasing “shutoff valves” along the pipeline to control leaks.

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After three years of litigation, the Paris court is scheduled to hold its first hearing on the merits of the vigilance lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth and Survival against TotalEnergies on Wednesday, October 12. The report on the Tanzanian component of the project has been added to the documents on file. The NGOs calling for the stop of this oil project in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes cannot fail to point out that they now have the European Parliament in their ranks. On September 15, on the initiative of French MEP Pierre Larrouturou (New Deal), he voted by a large majority in favor of an emergency resolution to denounce its impact on the population, the environment and the climate.

The project’s carbon footprint is 34 million tons of CO₂ per year, more than the emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined. MEPs are calling for drilling in protected areas to be halted and Eacop’s work to be postponed by a year “Check the feasibility of an alternative route” to protect the environment and“Check other projects based on renewable energies”. MEPs are also calling for an end to human rights abuses. TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné, who was invited to address the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee on October 10, rejected the proposal.

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