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Wednesday, 16th March, 2011
IN the sun baked plains around Lake Albert stands a newly created tourist camp at Kyehoro, Buseruka Sub County in Hoima district.
Michael Kaheru walks with a swagger because, unlike many other youth who seek for any kind of work in far away urban areas, he has got decent employment at the camp located in his native village. He owes this to oil exploration, which has led to opening of a network of motorable roads making this previously isolated part of the country more accessible to tourists. But oil is like a double edged sword given that those good roads can be used by poachers to get into the protected areas and move out swiftly with their loot.
This, according to Robert Damulira, the oil and gas manager at the World Wildlife for nature (WWF) has provoked a research to answer the question, “what is the impact of oil operations on tourism?” The study commissioned by the Uganda Wildlife Authority with funding from WWF will be undertaken by Green Belt Consult over the next two months.
“The discovery of oil presents immense opportunities as well as threats. The fledging oil industry should be well planned in order to avoid destruction of the country’s heritage. Tourism has been there for a long time, but oil will only last 20 years.,” said Damulira.
UWA’s Conservation director, John Makombo in a separate interview said, “The study will help to assess the impacts of the oil activities. This will paint a picture for compensation of what conservation is losing as a result of oil extraction in the protected areas.”
The study, according to Makombo is timely given that the wildlife policy is being reviewed and two bills on oil are yet to be considered by Parliament. The study will be conducted in Murchison Falls National Park and will target lodge owners, tourists and the communities arround.
Albertine is the bedrock of tourism and conservation
According to the “Environmental Sensitivity Atlas for the Albertine Graben,” there are 39 wildlife protected areas including national parks, wildlife reserves, community wildlife areas, and sanctuaries in Uganda. Of the 39, 22 are national parks and wildlife reserves, and 10 of these are found in the Albertine region. The parks in the Albertine rift include Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, the Rwenzori mountains, Kibale, Semliki, Bwindi and Mgahinga.
The report released by the National Environment Management Authority and the WWF for nature states that wildlife reserves include Ajai and East Madi located in west Nile, Bugungu and Karuma wildlife reserves in Buliisa and Masindi district. Others are Tooro-Semliki, Kabwoya and Kyambura in the mid region while in the extreme south west is Kigezi wildlife reserve.
Besides, national parks and wildlife reserves, there are large forest reserves such as Budongo, Bugoma and Kalinzu.
According to the report, the location of 10 out of the 22 national parks and wildlife reserves in Uganda within the oil rich Albertine Graben presents a land use challenge. “Oil development could disrupt conservation if not well planned. Yet these national parks and forest reserves, along with other protected areas inside and outside the Albertine graben form a continuous protected area system and they are generally linked by wildlife corridors,” states the report.
It added, “These corridors facilitate the movement of wildlife between habitats that are increasingly being fragmented by farmland and urban centres.
Not only do corridors link protected areas within Uganda, they also connect the protected areas of DR Congo to those of Uganda.
Wildlife based tourism and scenery dominates Uganda’s hospitality industry with more than 70% of the visitors coming to the Albertine rift. The most popular parks are Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth.
Damulira said vibrations during seismic surveys (sending a set of waves that help to establish the nature of rock formations in the ground) could trigger off migrations of large mammals.
By Gerald Tenywa: The Newvision Newspaper
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