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

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Children tend a herd in Tanzania's Chemba district, where the 1,445 km Eacop pipeline will pass.

The scenario changes, the story remains the same: in Tanzania, the construction of the oil pipeline destined to evacuate the oil extracted by TotalEnergies on the shores of Lake Albert, in Uganda, baptized East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop), also accompanies major violations of human rights on a large scale, according to the investigation made public on Wednesday, October 5 by Les Amis de la Terre and Survie, the two NGOs that are behind, together with four Ugandan associations, the lawsuit filed against the French mayor for breach of the law on the duty of vigilance of large companies with respect to their subsidiaries and subcontractors. This action initiated in 2019 is the first of its kind since the approval of the law in 2017.

Until now, NGOs have focused attention 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 plants and just 300 of the 1,445 km of Eacop. . Most of the world’s largest heated pipeline, work on which has not yet started, will cross Tanzania before reaching the Indian Ocean port of Tanga, where a storage terminal will also be built. Eacop is owned 62% by TotalEnergies, 15% each by the Ugandan and Tanzanian public oil companies and 8% by the Chinese company Cnooc, which is responsible for a minor production site in the southern part of Lake Albert .

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“In Uganda as in Tanzania, the practices are identical. The populations were not informed or consulted as they should have been. The compensation offered for their lands are undervalued and four years after the first purchase contracts, these, in many cases, have not been paid”, deplores Thomas Bart, author of the report based on an investigation carried out along the Eacop route in January and February 2022. The testimonies of more than 70 people were collected while preserving their anonymity, for fear of government reprisals. On several occasions, before having to interrupt his mission, the local authorities prevented Mr. Bart himself from communicating with the communities affected by this $10 billion project, which invades, on the Tanzanian side, the lands of 62,000 people in 231 villages.

“They didn’t ask us if we agreed”

“I saw them doing an evaluation of my land. That’s how I found out I was affected.”Says a man from the Manyara region, quoted in the report: “It was not in a meeting but on my farm. They took photos of my wife and me. I had no choice but was told I would be compensated. » Another relates a similar scene: ” They [les employés d’Eacop] they told us that our land 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 in the treatment of people displaced by large infrastructure projects. Among them, those of the International Finance Corporation (IFC, a subsidiary of the World Bank), which take as the first standard to obtain a “free, prior and informed consent”.

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How the acquired land was valued is also problematic, according to the NGO’s investigation. The amounts offered as compensation are considered insufficient to enable the acquisition of lots of identical surface. Especially since land prices have increased significantly in recent years. in Tanzania, according to those interviewed. Due to the lack of available land, Eacop has rarely offered compensation in kind. In a document published in August 2022 and cited by the report, the consortium indicates that “More than two thirds of the districts affected by the project have less than 20% of unused arable land and several districts have less than 5% of available land. This illustrates the challenge of identifying replacement land along the pipeline corridor.”.

Peasants were prohibited from cultivating their land, rebuilding their houses, or planting trees.

As in Uganda, farmers in Tanzania were told the day after the assessment operations (carried out in 2018) that they were prohibited from cultivating their land. Like rebuilding their houses damaged by seasonal rains or planting trees. This is to make it impossible to dispute the reviews. But although the compensation should have been paid within six months, the lack of payment led to a deterioration in the living conditions of the families four years later. Some say they suffer from “food shortage” and the loss of income that led them to take their son out of school. In the face of complaints, the production of certain vegetables and cereals has been authorized again, as in Uganda.

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. Remember the risks of ecological accidents linked to the seismic nature of the area and the passage of frequent hurricanes. According to a study carried out by the firm E-Tech, specialized in extractive industries, this reality should lead to Eacop strengthen their prevention systems, in particular by increasing “block valves” along the pipe to control leaks.

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After three years of procedural battle, the first hearing on the merits of the lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth and Survival against TotalEnergies in its duty of vigilance is due to take place on Wednesday 12 October in the Paris court. The report on the Tanzanian component of the project was added to the documents on file. The NGOs, who demand that this oil project in the heart of the Great Lakes of Africa be stopped, will not fail to point out that they now have the European Parliament in their ranks. On September 15, at the initiative of French MEP Pierre Larrouturou (New Deal), he voted by a large majority for an emergency resolution to denounce its impact on populations, the environment and the climate.

The carbon footprint of the project is 34 million tons of CO₂ per year, more than the emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined. MEPs demand the cessation of drilling in protected areas, as well as the postponement of one year of works by Eacop, to “study the feasibility of an alternative route” to preserve the environment and“consider other projects based on renewable energies”. MEPs also call for an end to human rights violations. TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné, invited to speak before the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee on October 10, declined the proposal.

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