environment


When water disappears, there is no alternative.

A serious crisis occurs when there is less than 500 cubic meter per person per year.

The World Bank and the WTO are energetic and anti-democratic instruments, eagerly facilitating corporate control and commoditization of water.

Water Wars by Vandana Shiva

The following maps come from the PDF from IOP (Institute of Physics) Publishing: Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa (PDF)
There are several related articles at All Africa

The African continent has enormous reserves of groundwater. Groundwater is finite. Once those reserves are used up they are gone for good. The questions are: How will the water be accessessed? And who will get the water and who will reap the benefits? Will Africans be able to use these in a beneficial and sustainable way? Or will the landgrabbers from other continents take Africa’s water along with their other exploitations of African resources.

Figure 1. Available information on groundwater resources for Africa used to construct the quantitative continent maps. A detailed list of the maps and studies is given in supplementary material 1 available at stacks.iop.org/ERL/7/024009/mmedia.

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Figure 2. Groundwater storage for Africa based on the effective porosity and saturated aquifer thickness. Panel (a) shows a map of groundwater storage expressed as water depth in millimetres with modern annual recharge for comparison (D¨oll and Fiedler 2008). Panel (b) shows the volume of groundwater storage for each country; the error bars are calculated by recalculating storage using the full ranges of effective porosity and thickness for each aquifer, rather than the best estimate. Annual renewable freshwater availability (FAO 2005) generally used in water scarcity assessments is shown for comparison.

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Figure 3. Aquifer productivity for Africa showing the likely interquartile range for boreholes drilled and sited using appropriate techniques and expertise. The inset shows an approximate depth to groundwater (Bonsor and MacDonald 2011).

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Horace Campbell has written about these vast water resources in Water and reconstruction in Africa: an agenda for transformation

once one begins to deal with water one is dealing with the fundamentals of life. In all major religions and forms of spiritual reflection, water plays a central role.

‘Groundwater resources are unevenly distributed: the largest groundwater volumes are found in the large sedimentary aquifers in the North African countries Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan.’ Of these African countries, Libya possessed by far the largest volume of ground water, 99,500 (km3). Algeria with 91,900 (km3), Sudan with 63,000 (km3) and Egypt with 55 200 (km3).

Here, then, is the truth revealed to those who did not know that French and western water companies had for decades coveted this huge resource of water in North Africa calculating how to deny the Africans access to these resources. This report can help those who were confused about the real motives for the invasion of Libya.

For decades it is has been the work of capitalist inspired international organizations to reveal a different narrative, that of water scarcity and water shortages in Africa. …
What was never revealed was the reality that access to water was the major democratic question in Africa and the more democratic a society, the more accessible the resources for water and sanitation.

The World Bank sums up its approach to Water Resources Management on the basis that its goals were: (a) helping the poor directly. (b) improving macroeconomic and fiscal balances, (c) promoting good governance and private sector development, and (d) protecting the environment.

The key basis for achieving these goals was the privatization of water resources. For the past fifty years the World Bank has been supporting giant water projects that served to dispossess the working peoples of the urban and rural areas. The World Bank projects for water management have been especially detrimental for the livelihood of oppressed African women. These women expend hours every day securing clean and potable water. The World Bank and its myriad of sub-contractors have been at the forefront of the struggles over the ideas of whether water should remain a public good, shared by humans everywhere, or a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market.

Trees attract water. To maintain surface water, you need trees. Deforestation makes the water dry up. Reforestation uses water for the benefit of the people who live there, creating forests that attract and capture precipitation, enlarging available water reserves.

Anta Diop in his vision of a federated Africa linked this dream to the reforestation and repopulation of Africa. Diop drew attention to plans that had been drawn up as far back as the fifties for the reforestation of the Sahel. He wrote,

‘The Sahel Zone, the more desert the farther north one goes, is ideal for reforestation. As early as 1950, we suggested a plan for replanting here. Although approved at the time by the Sudanese people and taken under consideration by the administration, this plan has since lain dormant.’

This plan of reforestation has always been linked to the larger project of providing water to those areas where there were water deficits. Wangari Maathai had taken this vision seriously and there are millions of African environmentalists who take seriously the vision of the reforestation of Africa. This vision of reforestation and healing the African environment can mobilize millions of workers, youths and engineers for a new sense of priorities for Africa. It is here where Pan African youths must take full ownership of the Great Green Wall Project. The African Union has supported this plan that had been pushed by visionaries such as Thomas Sankara. Reforestation in Africa is now conceived of as a massive project which calls for planting a 15km wide and 7000km long swath of land from Djibouti in the east and stretching to Senegal in the West (passing through Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania. This “Great Green Wall” is envisaged by the African Union as the Seven Thousand Kilometers of Trees integrated into new agricultural zones. Such a project places the concept of Unity on the level where it touches concretely the lives of the people. Advances in solar energy technology, harnessing the underground water resources, the electrification of Africa and an infrastructure of canal systems await Africa 2025 when Africa breaks from western intellectual and political hegemony.

The philosophy of Ubuntu seeks to break the divisions between the rational and irrational human, between space and time, objectivity and subjectivity and those ideas of ‘science’ that devalues the spiritual dimension of life. Within the present leadership of the African Union are to be found many leaders and intellectuals who are in full agreement with the World Bank and the view that water should be a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. The present constitution of international politics challenges organic scholars of the oppressed to conceptualise a prolonged popular struggle and not to be lured by the social capital of those who oppress the vast majority. The revelations of the water wealth are only one other component of the information to oppose western imperial domination.

Ghana has effectively fought back against a decades long campaign by the west to privatise its water.

How the Private Sector Didn’t Solve Ghana’s Water Crisis
originally published in Pambazuka

Seventy percent of Ghanaian homes don’t have a WC or a pit latrine. Piped water, if you have it at all, is intermittent, so water in your tap depends on whether you can afford a domestic reservoir. In 2005, the World Bank secured a private sector solution to the water crisis in Ghana – the first independent sub-Saharan African country, and one of the first to be economically adjusted for corporate benefit. But Ghanaian campaigners had different ideas for their taps and toilets.

A remarkable turnaround in Ghana’s water sector occurred in June 2011. After five years of managing Ghana’s urban water services, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, a Dutch South African water corporation, failed to renew its contract with the government-owned Ghana Water Company Ltd. Ghanaian opponents to water privatisation had won a resounding victory. They effectively wrong footed the World Bank, private sector advocate and major funder of Ghana’s water sector.

In Accra, you’re unlikely to have a WC plus individual cesspit unless you’re in the elite minority, and pit latrines are largely rural. You therefore have a few options. You can defecate in a bucket or a pan and pay for your ‘night soil’ to be taken, probably manually and illegally, perhaps twice a week, to a cesspit whose contents are then emptied by sewage tankers. You can walk to and then queue for a public latrine, most likely a subhuman hangover from colonial days where you pay for a bit of newspaper to wipe yourself and where there may be six stalls serving 1,000 people. You can defecate in a plastic bag and deposit it in the storm drains that line your street. You can defecate in a storm drain. You can defecate on the beach. Men often urinate in drains. Women sometimes put a bucket under their skirts. The only area with underground piped sewers is the ex-colonial enclave, round Osu, where the president lives and Ministries are located. At the wittily-named Lavender Hill, near some of the poorest areas in town, sewage tankers squirt raw sewage into the sea. A World Bank and Ghanaian government funded treatment plant is said to be in the pipeline at Lavender Hill.

If you have piped water, it’s not safe to drink, however rich or poor you are. If you can afford it, you buy either sachet water or bottled water to drink. Bottled water is expensive, on average GHc2 (US$1.9) a litre when the minimum wage is GHc4.48 (US$2.66) a day. The media periodically report sachet water scams. In any case, your tap will be dry perhaps 75% of the time, depending on your topological relationship to the local pumping station. If you can afford it, you install a huge polytank (a cylindrical plastic container) on a tower in your garden, plumb it into your domestic system, and fill it up when the taps are running. If you can’t afford it, you store water in jerry cans wherever you have room. You might seek professional help to fix your water meter, illegally. If you don’t have piped water, and you’re not paying bills to the Ghana Water Company, you might employ a professional to plumb you into a mains water pipe, illegally. If you don’t, you must buy from a water tanker, or from a stand pipe, which is more expensive than tap or domestically stored water. Fetching three buckets of water a day can cost you between 10% and 20% of your daily income. Thus, the poorer you are, the more you’re likely to pay for water in absolute terms.
Despite these huge problems, in January 2011 the World Bank was confidently stating that Ghana was ‘making steady progress’ towards the United Nations 2015 Millennium Development Goal for safe drinking water.

Water privatisation in Ghana goes back decades. The 1980s and the Rawlings regime saw external funders, especially the World Bank and the IMF, direct the restructuring of the Ghanaian economy as a condition for receiving desperately needed loans. Water reforms in the 1980s included sacking staff in the publicly owned Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation, attempts to curb non-revenue water and an emphasis on ‘cost recovery’ – as opposed to improving access to sanitation and clean water.

By 1999, the GWSC had been replaced by the Ghana Water Company Ltd. While 100% state owned, it’s responsible neither for rural water services nor for sewage disposal. Sewage generates life and plant growth as well as death and disease, but not profit.

In the same year, the World Bank’s plans snarled up on the issue of national sovereignty: the government objected to the accusation of corrupt tendering practices, and the World Bank withdrew its US$100 million loan – but with an eye to elections the following year. And indeed, the new New Patriotic Party government, far keener on the World Bank’s ‘reforms’ than Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress had ever been, ‘quickly organised an international tender for the [public-private partnership] lease contract, and in 2001 they short listed nine [multinational] companies…’ [1]

At this point, the opposition to the proposed water reforms consolidated. The National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water was established at an Accra forum in 2001. Members of South Africa’s Anti-Privatisation Forum and Municipal Workers’ Union participated, as well as an activist from Bolivia’s Cochabamba water struggle. They ‘shared their experiences of water privatisation, and the adverse impacts it had had on their communities.’ [2]

Independent research in 2002 found ‘… that implementation of a plan for full cost recovery and automatic tariff adjustment mechanisms [in the water sector] will be a condition for the completion of the IMF’s fifth review of Ghana’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan. Further, ‘Conditions attached to World Bank lending led to a 95 percent increase in water tariffs in May 2001.’ [3]

By early 2011, the anti-water privatisation coalition had been organising pickets, meetings, and media campaigns for 10 years. It had survived splits and government witch hunts, and had received some (but not nearly enough) international media exposure. NGOs which had previously backed water privatisation were working alongside it. Ghana’s Public Utility Workers Union was now openly campaigning against the renewal of the Ghana Water Company Ltd’s contract with Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd. The Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing began dropping hints that the contract would not be renewed.

But why? Surely the private sector, with its performance, efficiency and revenue targets, could tackle the huge problem of non revenue water? Non revenue water is any water supplied by the water company that isn’t paid for, because of unpaid bills, water leaking from pipes, or water connected illegally. In the late 1990s, Ghana Water Company Ltd’s non-revenue water stood at 50-51%, way above the World Bank’s 15% target.

On all major contractual obligations, however, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed, a contract, furthermore, that they had got on the cheap because it required no investment on their part whatsoever; it was a management contract, not a lease contract. Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed to decrease non-revenue water, they failed to increase the production of water, and they failed to improve bill collection. Service delivery (not surprisingly) failed to benefit from reducing the number of workers, i.e. cutting the cost of wage bills.

Five days after Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s contract wasn’t renewed, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing announced the setting up of the 100% state owned Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the Ghana Water Company Ltd, to replace Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, with a one year tenure ending in June 2012.

Leonard Shang Quartey co-ordinates the Essential Services Programme at The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), the campaigning NGO which spearheads the anti-water privatisation coalition. ‘This whole idea about Ghana Urban Water Limited, I don’t think it’s necessary,’ Quartey said in June 2011. ’We have to focus our efforts on GWCL [Ghana Water Company Ltd] and make it workable.’ And it’s not as though Ghana doesn’t have water – the mighty Volta Lake is one of the world’s largest reservoirs.

June 2012 and what happens next? The interim Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd still exists. According to Quartey and Oxfam GB’s Alhassan Adam (telephone interviews June and May 2012), the World Bank is pressurising the government to return to the privatisation option. But, Quartey said, any form of privatisation is unacceptable to the anti-water privatisation coalition. They want a strengthened and restructured Ghana Water Company Ltd, that is, a public water authority charged with the provision (as opposed to the cost recovery) of clean water. The issue has very little to do with management, as Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s failure proved. ‘The bulk of the problem,’ Quartey said, ‘lies in financing.’

It’s worth remembering that during colonial occupation, African economies were organised primarily for the extraction of raw materials to their northern ‘masters’. Political independence did not bring economic independence, and the advent of IMF and World Bank economic restructuring from the 1980s onwards, driven by conditions on loans and grants, has maintained extractive exploitation. According to Quartey, Public Private Partnership, as in the Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd debacle, is still the World Bank’s preferred privatisation vehicle.

What solutions are there? Quartey and the coalition want increased government spending: the water sector is more than 80% donor funded. But Ghanaians can finance their water sector themselves. Since 2010, the country has produced oil. It’s one of the world’s leading gold and cocoa producers. Taxation needs to be properly regulated, in particular corporate tax loopholes blocked. Last year’s increase in corporate tax on mining companies was a step in the right direction, Quartey said.

Ghana is a wealthy country, as is Africa as a whole. The Ghanaian government, with a little help from the anti water privatisation coalition, need not submit to World Bank pressure. And then there’s China.

In addition to commodifying water as water, the rapacious land grabs operators from various continents are making in Africa mean external exploitation of Africa’s critical water resources. Water gets exported as part of the agricultural products whose growth it irrigates. Biofuel production is a particularly wasteful and unsustainable use of water. Water resources are fouled and destroyed by mining, unregulated construction, and other extractive industries.

To me one of the most exciting possibilities is the proposed Green Wall across the Sahel. Not only would it use Africa’s water resources for African benefit, trees would help replenish water supplies, not just make use of them. The project will require vision, imagination, leadership and struggle to assert African forms of participatory democracy in order to achieve such a goal. We have to start by visualizing goals and sharing that vision in order to get on track to achieving those goals.

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Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land …

No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security

Much of the money is said to be channelled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa’s largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers.
… Emergent’s clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.

Africa land grab and hunger map (click to enlarge enough to read)

“These agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years – do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors.”

“The scale of the land deals being struck is shocking”, said Mittal. “The conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.

Research by the World Bank and others suggests that nearly 60m hectares – an area the size of France – has been bought or leased by foreign companies in Africa in the past three years.

“Most of these deals are characterised by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms,” says the report.

“We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as squatters, are forcibly removed with no compensation,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at Oakland, said: “This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.” (The Guardian)

Africa biofuels land grab map (click to enlarge enough to read)

THIS NEW scramble for African land has visited a multitude of problems on ordinary Africans and set the stage for ecological crisis and widespread hunger.

As many critics have pointed out, African governments have falsely claimed that land available for sale is unused. As journalist Joan Baxter writes:

Some defend the investors’ acquisition of land in their countries, saying it is “virgin” or “under-utilized” or “uncultivated” or “degraded” land…This suggests they know precious little about the importance of fallows and the resilience and diversity of agroforestry systems, or about sustainable agriculture and the knowledge base of their own farmers.

Communal land, small farmers and even entire villages are often displaced in the drive for land purchases. The Oakland Institute think-tank released a report on the African land grab, which points out:

Experts in the field, however, affirm that there is no such thing as idle land in…Africa…Countless studies have shown that competition for grazing land and access to water bodies are the two most important sources of inter-communal conflict in [areas] populated by pastoralists.

According to Michael Taylor, a policy specialist at the International Land Coalition, “If land in Africa hasn’t been planted, it’s probably for a reason. Maybe it’s used to graze livestock or deliberately left fallow to prevent nutrient depletion and erosion. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land…that has no owners and users.”

In other words, as activist Vandana Shiva puts it, “We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less. There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted. The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline.”

In fact, because much of its food is produced for export, sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where per capita food production has been declining, with the number of people that are chronically hungry and undernourished currently estimated at more than 265 million.

Nations with large amounts of land sold or leased to foreign owners are often food importers, and their inability to feed their own populations is exacerbated by the displacement of food producers who grow for local use. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that Africa has lost 20 percent of its capacity to feed itself over the past four decades. Ethiopia alone has 13 million people in immediate need of food assistance, yet its government has put over 7 million acres of land up for sale.

And worsening hunger is still to come. …

Large-scale land acquisition poses massive ecological threats to the African environment. The dangers are numerous: hazardous pesticides and fertilizers cause water contamination from their runoff, the introduction of genetically modified seeds and other problems. Land previously left to lie fallow is now threatened with overuse from intensified agricultural development, a trend further exacerbated by speculative investment and the drive for short-term profits.

Yet deals transferring vast tracts of land are typically taking place far removed from local farmers and villagers with virtually no accountability. As Khadija Sharife writes on the Pambazuka Web site:

The deals involving these concessions are often cloaked in secrecy, but African business has learned that they are usually characterized by allowing free access to water, repatriation of profits, tax exemptions and the ability for investors to acquire land at no cost whatsoever, with little or no restriction on the volume of food exported or its intended use, in return for a loose promise to develop infrastructure and markets

In many cases, farmers and pastoralists have worked this land for centuries. However, governments are claiming this land is idle in order to more easily sell or lease it to private investors. (New African Land Grab)

I found this a particularly telling passage from (Mis)investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation In Global Land Grabs (PDF) a publication of the Oakland Institute.

Proponents of the land deals will dismiss my concerns and claim that this type of foreign investment will benefit the local people by providing jobs and creating infrastructure. They will also say that the land being offered is “unused.” These are hollow arguments. Investors have been quoted as saying they will employ 10,000 people and use high-tech, high-production farming techniques. The two promises are completely incongruous. As a farmer, I can tell you that high-tech, high production devices are appealing precisely because they reduce labor. Investors will not hire significant numbers of people and simultaneously scale-up their production techniques. And if they choose the former, they are likely to create low-paying jobs and poor working conditions. I may be making assumptions, but they are based on history—a history dating back to colonialism and one that has exploited both natural resources and people.

Particularly disconcerting is the notion that the “available” land is “unused.” This land is in countries with the highest rates of malnutrition on the only continent that produces less food per capita than it did a decade ago. In most cases, this land has a real purpose: it may support corridors for pastoralists; provide fallow space for soil regeneration; provide access to limited water sources; be reserved for future generations; or enable local farmers to increase production. The fact that rich and emerging economies do not have or do not respect pastoralists or use land for age-old customs does not mean we have a right to label this land unused.

In the quest for biofuel plantations, and for export food crops, foreign countries and corporations are grabbing land, “using methods that hark back to the darkest days of colonialism” in Ghana and throughout Africa.

Foreign companies now control 37 percent of Ghana cropland. The spread of jatropha is pushing small farmers, and particularly women farmers off their land. Valuable food sources such as shea nut and dawadawa trees have been cleared to make way for plantations.

A total of 769,000 ha has been acquired by foreign companies such as Agroils (Italy), Galten Global Alternative Energy (Israel), Gold Star Farms (Ghana), Jatropha Africa (UK/Ghan), Biofuel Africa (Norway), ScanFuel (Norway) and Kimminic Corporation (Canada). According to the CIA World Fact Book Ghana has 3.99 million ha arable land with 2.075 million ha under permanent crops. This means that more than 37 percent of Ghana’s cropland has been grabbed for the plantation of jatropha.

Large-scale jatropha plantation with forest in background, Brong Ahafo region,Ghana. Photo by Laura German

What is worse in most cases the companies involved in the production of the biofuel import labour from outside the communities where production sites were located, and “there were drastic lay-offs as the project progressed from land preparation and planting stages.”

Friends of the Earth published Africa: up for grabs: The scale and impact of land grabbing for agrofuels PDF describing the problem throughout the continent. It contains maps and tables showing more detailed information about specific countries.

With its relatively stabile political situation and suitable climate, Ghana is an apparent hotspot for acquiring land to grow jatropha.

Harvesting jatropha in Ghana

Examples of land allocated reportedly for biofuel investments in Ghana:

FoE table of examples of land allocated reportedly for biofuel investments in Ghana (click to enlarge)

The following story from Ghana shows how the Europeans, often with the help of some government enablers, trick local communities into giving up their land. The company representatives imply they are bringing jobs and income, but do not contract in any way in which they can be held legally accountable to keep their promises. It is not just Europeans who are siezing land in Africa. The US, China, Brazil, and other countries are involved. In Ghana so far, most of the appropriated land has been taken over by Europeans.

Biofuel land grabbing in Northern Ghana PDF is the story of how a Norwegian biofuel company took advantage of Africa’s traditional system of communal land ownership and current climate and economic pressure to claim and deforest large tracts of land in Kusawgu, Northern Ghana with the intention of creating “the largest jatropha plantation in the world”.

Bypassing official development authorization and using methods that hark back to the darkest days of colonialism, this investor claimed legal ownership of these lands by deceiving an illiterate chief to sign away 38 000 hectares with his thumb print.

This is also the story of how the effected community came to realize that, while the promised jobs and incomes were unlikely to materialize, the plantation would mean extensive deforestation and the loss of incomes from gathering forest products, such as sheanuts. When given all the information the community successfully fought to send the investors packing but not before 2 600 hectares of land had been deforested. Many have now lost their incomes from the forest and face a bleak future.

Land stripped for biofuel production near Alipe, Northern Ghana.

Rural communities who are desperate for incomes are enticed by developers who promise them a “better future” under the guise of jobs with the argument that they are currently only just surviving from the “unproductive land” and that they stand to earn a regular income if they give up the land for development. This argument fails to appreciate the African view of the meaning of the land to the community. While the initial temptation to give up the land to earn a wage is great, it portends of an ominous future where the community’s sovereignty, identity and their sense of community is lost because of the fragmentation that the community will suffer.

The strategy for the acquisition of the land often takes the following course: The imaginations of a few influential leaders in the community are captured. They are told about prospects for the community due to the project and they were swayed with promises of positions in the company or with monetary inducements. The idea is that these people do the necessary “footwork” in the villages where they spread the word about job opportunities. A document is then prepared, essentially a contract, to lease the land to the company. In the event of problems the developer can press their claim by enforcing the ‘contract’ or agreement. When the legality of the process is not adequately scrutinized, the developers have their way but, subject to proper scrutiny, it emerges these contracts are not legally binding as they have not gone through the correct legal channels. This is what happened in this particular case in the Alipe area.

In this community, like in most parts of Ghana, over 80 percent of the land is held under communal ownership and more that 70 percent of this land is managed by traditional ruler-chiefs mainly on behalf the members of the their traditional areas. The chief was very categorical that he had not made such a grant and that he had also been battling with those “white people” to stop them – without much success. He confirmed that he “thumb printed” a document in the company of the Assemblyman of the area which had been brought to his palace by the “white people” but he did not confirm its contents.

The Chief was initially unwilling to go against the wishes of his people as his efforts to stop the developers were being interpreted by the community as driving away opportunities to earn an income during the current dry season”.

The facts began to emerge – a big fish in Government was promoting the project and had deployed his business associates in the Region to front for him. This front man was immediately employed as the Local Manager of BioFuel Africa. The EPA then insisted that they must go through the processes of having an Environmental Impact Assessment made. We then had a public consultative forum in the community where we had a face-to–face confrontation Mr. Finn Byberg, Director of Land Acquisition for BioFuel Africa in the village square in front of the Chief’s palace. The audience and judges were the village communities affected by the proposed project.

The Chief and his elders waiting to hear the presentations.


… the promises of jobs and a new improved life would not materialize because Mr Finn Byberg, the Chairman of BioFuel Africa confessed, during his presentation that he could not state categorically what commitments the company would make He said, “Commitments are not very easy and so when I am required to make these, I need to be very careful. I do not want to be caught for not keeping my word.”. … This made it clear that our land is being used for experimentation. Mr Byberg’s promise of jobs …were mere campaign gimmicks.

Most vocal indeed were the women at the session. Looking Mr Finn Byberg in the face a women asked, “Look at all the sheanut trees you have cut down already and considering the fact that the nuts that I collect in a year give me cloth for the year and also a little capital. I can invest my petty income in the form of a ram and sometimes in a good year, I can buy a cow. Now you have destroyed the trees and you are promising me something you do not want to commit yourself to. Where then do you want me to go? What do you want me to do?”

We need a more aggressive campaign to halt land grabbing. We need to engage with traditional rulers, District Assemblies and Politicians about this ominous phenomenon. We need visibility through print and electronic media to put our message across effectively to a wider audience. RAINS has a strategy to build on the rapport that it has developed through the OSIWA project with traditional rulers to open up another channel for engagement. We cannot afford to be caught unawares in this war with the biofuel companies. The ancestors are on our side and we shall win the war!

by Bakari Nyari, Vice Chairman of RAINS – Regional Advisory and Information Network Systems, Ghana, and Ghana and African Biodiversity Network Steering Committee member

At the same time, from the Friends of the Earth study:

Reports from India, however, indicate that yields of 1kg per plant have been difficult to achieve. Food Security Ghana is yet to hear of any commercially viable biofuel production from Jatropha, and it looks more and more as though the jatrophy frenzy is a big bubble waiting to burst.

The FoE report is indeed alarming if one considers that Ghana has allowed this massive land grab to take place in the absence of a biofuel policy and with no environmental impact studies undertaken – on the possible negative effects on both natural resources and on the communities – of huge jatropha plantations.

The report further states that proponents of agrofuels generally argue that agrofuel production will address the economic crisis facing many developing countries; they will create wealth and jobs and alleviate poverty.

According to the FoE these arguments overlook the other side of the story and leave many questions unanswered.

• Is the push for agrofuel production in the interest of the developing countries or are the real beneficiaries Northern industrialised countries?

• Will the production of agrofuels actually provide more jobs and enhance economic development at the community level?

• Will it address the issue of food insecurity plaguing the developing world?

• What are the social and environmental costs of agrofuel production to host communities?

• Who stands to benefit from the entire process?

The FoE concludes its report with the following:

  • “Hunger for foreign investment and economic development is driving a number of African countries to welcome agrofuel developers onto their land. Most of these developers are European companies, looking to grow agrofuel crops to meet EU targets for agrofuel use in transport fuel.
  • Demand for agrofuels threatens food supplies away from consumers for fuel in the case of crops such as cassava, peanuts, sweet sorghum and maize.
  • Non-edible agrofuel crops such as jatropha are competing directly with food crops for fertile land. The result threatens food supplies in poor communities and pushes up the cost of available food.
  • Farmers who switch to agrofuel crops run the risk of being unable to feed their families.
  • While foreign companies pay lip service to the need for “sustainable development”, agrofuel production and demand for land is resulting in the loss of pasture and forests, destroying natural habitat and probably causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Agrofuel production is also draining water from parts of the continent where drought is already a problem
    .
  • While politicians promise that agrofuels will bring locally sourced energy supplies to their countries, the reality is that most of the foreign companies are developing agrofuels to sell on the international market.
  • Just as African economies have seen fossil fuels and other natural
    resources exploited for the benefit of other countries, there is a risk that
    agrofuels will be exported abroad with minimal benefit for local communities and national economies. Countries will be left with depleted soils, rivers that have been drained and forests that have been destroyed.”

The Government of Ghana announced that a biofuel policy will soon be introduced. Now is maybe the time for the people of Ghana to ask if the critical questions posed by the FoE have been addressed in the development of this policy.
from Food Security Ghana

________

September 17 from GhanaWeb: Tema fishermen halt sale of land, agricultural land is not the only land being seized by nationals from other countries.

About 200 fishermen and fishmongers Thursday resisted attempts to clear debris and erect a fencewall around a fish processing area near the Tema Canoe Beach.

The area was being cleared for the construction of a palm oil processing firm to be owned by Wilmor Edible Oil Refinery-Project (WEORP) a Singaporean firm.

The 64 hectare land was leased to the company by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

The demonstrators wearing red arm bands and headgears singing traditional songs with the refrain “wo kpene ni ashishi wo,” to wit, “we will not allow them to cheat us,” stopped the bulldozer from preparing the ground and sealed holes dug up to erect pillars for the fencewall.

Rebecca Ashong, one of the fish processors, said she had been on the business for more than 15 years and had been supporting her family with proceeds from it and driving them out of the land will spell doom for them.

Wolenye Korkor Abo, said more than 2,000 people depended on the fish processing business for survival and displacing them will bring about untold hardship into the Tema Manhean community and asked government to take another look at it.

Nii Shippi Armah of the Tema Traditional Council wondered why the people of Tema would not be left alone to occupy this piece of land after so many acres of their land had been taken over by the State.

He said in 1959 when the construction of the Tema harbour and industrialisation of Tern a displaced the indigenous people, government resettled them at Tema Newtown.

In addition, government pointed the landing beach and this piece of land where our people could continue fishing processing their catch and mending nets as we did at our previous location.

He said “after almost 51 years of using the place, it has by convention and usage become ours“.

He said over 2,000 people were involved in the fish processing business in the area and it is from that they support their families and children’s education and sacking them would bring untold economic hardships. “We will, therefore, resist all attempts to displace us again,” he warned.

Nii Shippi Armah said a committee set up to study the implications of the project to the community was yet to present its report to the Tema Traditional Council.

And these sound like empty promises:

Mr, Asiedu said over the last five months it had been meeting the committee members and they had agreed that those affected by the project will be relocated and the cost paid by the project so that their livelihood were not destroyed.

He said for instance, “it had been agreed that a fish processing platform will be built across the road near the lagoon where business can be done in a more hygienic manner.”

He said a new 50 seater toilet facility will be provided to replace the 40 seater one which is currently located at the centre of the land.

Mr. Asiedu said the concerns of the community were being addressed and the construction of the project would be carried out alongside the relocation plan and, therefore, advised those affected by the project not to panic.

The project is expected to directly employ between 1,800 and 2,400 people.

The local fishing business already supports that many. Will the processing plant employ Ghanaians, or will it import labor? If Ghanaians will be relocated, the relocation spot should be prepared and ready before they move. Promises mean nothing. No one can live on promises. And why should these people be forced to move again?

I wish the fishermen and fishmongers of Tema much success in holding on to their land and livelihood. And I wish farming and working communities throughout Ghana success in holding on to their land. The dangers are wealthy, powerful, and growing. Local people need some help and support from their government. Government needs to provide this backing to stay legitimate. If you want people to vote for you, they need to see you are supporting their interests or they will vote you out. That just happened in Washington DC, where a mayor who repeatedly ignored and insulted a majority of his constituents, the people who had previously supported him, just lost his bid for reelection. It can happen in Ghana too. It is what a lot of Ghanaians were looking for in the presidential elections at the end of 2008.

________

Unfortunately, Fifteen fishmongers arrested.

________

The first part of this article was published, text only, on GhanaWeb on September 19.  You can read comments there.

We have a laboratory that shows us what happens to a vital and sensitive coastal wetland subjected to massive and repeated oil spills. So far very little has been done to study it. The Niger Delta, one of the 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world, has experienced an average of one oil spill per day, collectively the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill per year, for five decades, 50 years. Half the life created in a warm coastal wetland is created in the top two millimeters of slime on the surface of the marsh mud, the food base of the entire coastal wetland, as illustrated below. If this layer is covered by oil and dies, all the animals up the food chain risk starvation. In the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold. you can hear a man telling us that in his Niger Delta fishing community where they have fished for generations, there is now no one who can make a living as a fisherman.

Half of the all the life created in the nature-rich Louisiana coast, one of the world's most productive estuaries, or in any warm coastal wetland, takes place in the thin layer of slime on top of the marshes. Microscopic creatures are a key part of the Gulf marsh ecosystem. (nola.com, click to enlarge enough to read)

Right now BP’s Deep Horizon well is spilling what may be the equivalent of one or more Exxon Valdez spills per week. The well may be compromised downhole (from dougr at the Oil Drum) and leaking in multiple locations. How, and even if it can be stopped are open questions to which no one appears to know the answer. In the Niger Delta we have the laboratory for how this massive a spill might effect people, plants, animals, land, and water. But it has been very little studied. The effects of this oil spilling on people has been almost completely ignored.

Meredeth Turshen wrote of the Niger Delta in 2004:

Specific effects of oil development on women’s health seem not to have been investigated. Although I found an article on the effects of exposure of crocodiles to sub-lethal concentrations of petroleum waste drilling fluid in the Niger Delta basin, I could find nothing on the health of women who live near oil wells and oil production stations, and nothing on reproductive outcomes in areas adjacent to petrochemical plants. Yet it is known that cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead are contained in the refinery effluents that are constantly discharged into nearby bodies of water. At high concentrations these metals cause metabolic malfunctions in human beings. They enter the food chain through the drinking water and the local fish that people consume.

Right now we are just beginning to see similar exposure to US citizens.

Oil spills have destroyed lives and livelihoods throughout the Niger Delta. You can see and hear what has happened to people:
Click here to view the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold.
It is based on Ed Kashi’s book of the same name, Curse of the Black Gold.

Neither the oil companies nor the Nigerian government want anyone to know what is going on. Investigation and research is actively discouraged. Those engaged in research or reporting may find themselves threatened and at risk of arrest, beatings, injury and death. And now The Mercenaries Take Over, mostly hired by the oil companies to protect their interests and prevent interference and investigation.

The same thing is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has hired mercenaries to keep the news media and the public away from the places the oil has come ashore and prevent investigation.
Louisiana response to Gulf of Mexico oil spill obstructed by BP and federal agencies, state officials say
or
Barriers to news coverage of Gulf of Mexico oil spill remain despite promises

Journalists covering the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have been yelled at, kicked off public beaches and islands and threatened with arrest in the nearly three weeks since the government promised improved media access.

The threats and dangers are not now as pervasive and severe as in the Niger Delta. But they are there, and this is just the beginning. You can see in the following picture the vast extent of the oil spill, covering 18, 473 square miles on June 19, and growing. Much of that oil will be coming ashore in the wetlands. Storms are likely to drive it to land and inland. Much oil remains suspended in the water along with a great deal of methane that has been escaping with the oil. The oil and methane will kill marine life and make their habitat uninhabitable.

Strong thunderstorms form large, dense masses of bright white cloud in this MODIS/Aqua satellite image of the northeast Gulf of Mexico taken the afternoon of June 19, 2010. But it's clearer than the MODIS/Terra image taken the day before, and reveals fresh oil upwelling around the location of the leaking Macondo well, source of the ongoing BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Slicks and sheen span 18,473 square miles (47,847 km2) on this image. Thin patches of slick and sheen appear to be making landfall from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Perdido Key in Florida, and from Grayton Beach State Park to the Seacrest / Rosemary Beach area along the Florida coast. (from SkyTruth on Flickr: flickr.com/photos/skytruth/4722626008/ , click to enlarge)

In Nigeria Claytus Kanyie says:

The aquatic life of our people is dying off. There used be shrimp. There are no longer any shrimp.

And another Nigerian fisherman speaks:

If you want to go fishing, you have to paddle for about four hours through several rivers before you can get to where you can catch fish and the spill is lesser … some of the fishes we catch, when you open the stomach, it smells of crude oil.

Soon this will be true in the Gulf of Mexico, as will all the health effects and economic impact of wetlands saturated with oil, and of a sea depleted of oxygen and filled with oil and toxic chemicals.

“I’ve never seen this kind of attitude, where safety doesn’t seem to matter.”

“Very big fish and very prized fish are moving in to spawn — it’s a critical time of the year … Larvae from the fish may end up eating droplets of oil.”

This post continues Deep Water Drilling – What Can Go Wrong?

Oil continues gushing from the Deepwater Horizon well. The big questions are still: what exactly happened, what is being done about it, and where is the oil going? Keep in mind that regardless of what safeguards or prohibitions the United States puts on deep water drilling in its own coastal waters, it still wants the drilling to continue and expand around the world, and so do all the world’s oil consumers. What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico could happen all along the Gulf of Guinea, and in increasingly numerous locations all around the world. Would governments be able to hold the oil companies to account for timely fixes and for damages? So far the US government is doing a poor job of protecting or investigating. There are lessons and warnings in the US Government’s approach to analysing and cleaning up following the spill.

I saw the satellite view of the spreading oil spill from May 4. The oil sheen nearest the leaking well, at the bottom of the picture, looks like a horse leaping out of the ocean and towards the gulf coast. The shape is not necessarily significant, but I certainly found it apocalyptically evocative, you can see in the detail and the original below.

Detail of the oil slick spreading in the Gulf of Mexico from a satellite picture taken May 4, 2010, and posted by SkyTruth on Flickr. The shape of the slick nearest the well looks like a horse leaping from the ocean and charging towards the Gulf coast

Oil slick spreading from the Deep Water Horizon oil well on May 4, 2010, flickr.com/photos/skytruth/4579765702/

60 Minutes interviewed a survivor of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Based on information in that program, it looks like BP was reckless and irresponsible.

Williams says there was an accident on the rig that has not been reported before. He says, four weeks before the explosion, the rig’s most vital piece of safety equipment was damaged.

What strikes Bea is Williams’ description of the blowout preventer. Williams says in a drilling accident four weeks before the explosion, the critical rubber gasket, called an “annular,” was damaged and pieces of it started coming out of the well.

Here’s why that’s so important: the annular is used to seal the well for pressure tests. And those tests determine whether dangerous gas is seeping in.

“So if the annular is damaged, if I understand you correctly, you can’t do the pressure tests in a reliable way?” Pelley asked.

“That’s correct. You may get pressure test recordings, but because you’re leaking pressure, they are not reliable,” Bea explained.

Williams also told us that a backup control system to the blowout preventer called a pod had lost some of its functions.

“What is the standard operating procedure if you lose one of the control pods?” Pelley asked.

“Reestablish it, fix it. It’s like losing one of your legs,” Bea said.

This is a detail of the blowout preventer from the PDF: media.nola.com/news_impact/other/oil-cause-050710.pdf

You can see the complete diagram with a link to the PDF at Diagram of what happened. There is also a graphic that shows how leaking oil well might be plugged by the ‘top kill’ method. This has only been done on land before, not under the pressures at 1 mile deep.

There is an even larger potential danger from BP looming in the Gulf discussed in the 60 Minutes report:

Now, there is new concern about another BP facility in the Gulf: a former BP insider tells us the platform “Atlantis” is a greater threat than the Deepwater Horizon.

Ken Abbott has worked for Shell and GE. And in 2008 he was hired by BP to manage thousands of engineering drawings for the Atlantis platform.

They serve as blueprints and also as a operator manual, if you will, on how to make this work, and more importantly how to shut it down in an emergency,” Abbott explained.

But he says he found that 89 percent of those critical drawings had not been inspected and approved by BP engineers. Even worse, he says 95 percent of the underwater welding plans had never been approved either.

“Are these welding procedures supposed to be approved in the paperwork before the welds are done?” Pelley asked.

“Absolutely. Yeah,” Abbott replied. “They’re critical.”

Abbott’s charges are backed up by BP internal e-mails. In 2008, BP manager Barry Duff wrote that the lack of approved drawings could result in “catastrophic operator errors,” and “currently there are hundreds if not thousands of Subsea documents that have never been finalized.”

I’ve never seen this kind of attitude, where safety doesn’t seem to matter
(NYT)

Additionally:

Costly, time-consuming test of cement linings in Deepwater Horizon rig was omitted, spokesman says

BP hired a top oilfield service company to test the strength of cement linings on the Deepwater Horizon’s well, but sent the firm’s workers home 11 hours before the rig exploded April 20 without performing a final check that a top cementing company executive called “the only test that can really determine the actual effectiveness” of the well’s seal.

And what is happening to the oil, where is it going?

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes. (NYT)

For wildlife offshore, the damage from a spill can be invisible but still deadly (click to enlarge enough to read)

Spills Effects Underwater

In addition to measuring the amount of oil, researchers need to study the effect on fish larvae and bacteria, he said. “Very big fish and very prized fish are moving in to spawn — it’s a critical time of the year,” he told HuffPost. “Larvae from the fish may end up eating droplets of oil.

Steiner said NOAA is not only failing to fully measure the impact of the spill, but, he said, “if they rationally want to close and open fisheries, then they need to know where this stuff is going.” (Huffington Post)

The highly toxic chemicals BP is pumping in at the leak and using on the surface to disperse the oil could have an even more toxic effect on sea life, and up the food chain, than the oil. The government is now started thinking about this: Gulf oil spill: EPA orders BP to use less toxic dispersant and the White House has asked BP to be more transparent. I doubt asking, even from the White House, will make a big difference.

The US Government looks like it is using the Niger Delta as a model for its response. BP and the Coast Guard turned away CBS news and threatened them with arrest. BP Attempts to Block Media From Filming Extent of Oil Spill Disaster.

As concerns about the growing devastation the BP oil spill has inflicted on Gulf Cost communities increase, reports have surfaced that BP is blocking members of the press from filming the extent of the damage. A CBS news crew attempted to film a beach in South Pass, Louisiana, obscured by a thick coat of oil, and was barred from doing so by BP contractors and two coast guard officers aboard a boat who threatened to arrest the film crew. When asked why filming along the beach was not permitted they were told, “This is BP’s rules, it’s not ours.”

This is not the first report of such an incident. There have been other reports of camera and video equipment being confiscated or banned.

… After a boat tour of the affected areas along the coast, Jindal stated “the day that we have all been fearing is upon us today. This wasn’t tar balls. This wasn’t sheen. This is heavy oil in our wetlands. It’s already here but we know more is coming.”

The amount of oil sweeping the coast has caused many to believe that BP has misled the white house, government officials and the public by alleging that only 5,000 barrels of oil a day are leaking from the Deepwater Horizon. In fact, some scientists believe that approximately 25,000 barrels of oil could be leaking a day. Some reports have quoted a number as high as 80, 000 barrels of oil a day. These numbers have prompted Congressman Edward Markey to send a letter to BP asking the question that has been on everyone’s mind: “how much oil is leaking into the Gulf and how much oil can be expected to end up on our shores and our ocean environment?”

The fact that the Coast Guard is assisting BP in blocking the public’s right to know is particularly worrisome. Using Nigeria as a model, in the Niger Delta we have seen repeatedly the Nigerian government and the oil companies pointing at each other and saying we can’t do anything, our hands are tied, they are the only ones with the authority/ability/responsibility to act.  Anyone who tries to observe or investigate is subjected to arrest or worse. And nothing gets done for environmental protection or infrastructure development. In fact we can look at the Niger Delta to see the environmental effects when enormous amounts of oil are spilled on coastal wetlands.

Up to 13 million barrels of oil have spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem over the past 50 years, representing about 50 times the estimated volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989. Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project, PDF.

The EPA is saying BP is collecting the data, and they can’t compel BP to publish it, BP withholds oil spill facts — and government lets it.

WASHINGTON — BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded last month in the Gulf of Mexico, hasn’t publicly divulged the results of tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

As Cynthia Kouril points out:

The EPA, the Coast Guard and OSHA don’t need anybody’s permission to take air or water samples. They don’t need anybody’s permission to ask those shrimp boat captains to wear a second air quality monitoring patch and turn those back to OSHA for analysis. They don’t need anybody’s permission to send their own remote cameras or submarines down to take pictures of the plume—at least NASA seems to “get” this, the space station folks have been taking photos of the oil spill without waiting for BP’s blessing.

BP may control the data from the patches on the shrimp boater’s sleeves and it may control its own data — which could still be pried loose with either an administrative or criminal subpoena, and probably should be — but nothing prevents the government from doing its own sampling. The notion that the federal agencies responsible for environmental, health and safety are somehow helpless bystanders is just nuts, or bullpucky. In fact, EPA, like NASA has already begun its own efforts.

The oil is now on its way out of the Gulf:

More oil than is already visible could be entering the Loop Current, which could carry it past the Florida Keys and up the Atlantic coast.

MODIS/Terra satellite image taken May 17, 2010, shows oil slick being entrained in the Loop Current, with a broad conveyor-belt-like extension of the slick sweeping in a gentle arc to the southeast and reaching 222 miles (357 km) from the location of the leaking well. Slick and sheen covers 10,170 square miles (26,341 km2), almost 100% larger than was visible in the 5/14 radar image.

The Loop Current that sometimes forms in the Gulf of Mexico connects to the Florida Current that is part of the Gulf Stream system. On the average, the inner edge of the Florida Current is within 10 miles of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, FL. In this illustration of the Loop Current and the Florida Current, the colors on the color wheel correspond to the directions of the currents, blue, red, cyan, yellow for north, south, east, and west.

“The fact that NOAA has missed the ball catastrophically on the tracking and effects monitoring of this spill is inexcusable,” said Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska marine conservationist … “They need 20 research ships on this, yesterday.”

Steiner explained: “This is probably turning out to be the largest oil spill in U.S. history and the most unique oil spill in world history,” on account of it occurring not on or near the surface, but nearly a mile below.

“They should have had a preexisting rapid response plan,” he told HuffPost. “They should have had vessels of opportunity — shrimp vessels, any vessel that can deploy a water-column sampling device — pre-contracted, on a list, to be called up in an event that this happened. And they blew it. And it’s been going on for a month now, and all that information has been lost.”

“I think that should be one of our biggest concerns, getting the technology and the research to try to understand how big this amorphous mass of water is, and how it moves,” he said.

It’s like an iceberg. Most of it is below the surface. And we just have no instruments below the surface that can help us monitor the size, the concentration and the movement.” (Huffington Post)

Envisat ASAR radar satellite image (black and white) taken May 18, 2010, shows oil slick entrained in the Loop Current and spreading out to the southeast. Slick and sheen covers 15,976 square miles (41,377 km2), about 50% larger than seen in yesterday's MODIS image and about twice the size of New Jersey. Image courtesy CSTARS. flickr.com/photos/skytruth/4622687873/

Here is more detail on the Gulf Loop Current:

The Gulf Loop is a strong current in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It can be a short loop or stretched very long. When it is long, it often pinches off a spinning body of water called an eddy . These eddies drift westward over many weeks. They slowly lose energy in the western Gulf. This cycle repeats itself several times a year.

graphic of a 3D model of the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico

1. Warm water from the Caribbean Sea enters the gulf.

2. A “Loop Current” gradually forms in the eastern gulf. Eventually, the loop breaks off and forms an eddy.

3. The eddy has a core of warm water, and rotates clockwise as it moves west across the gulf. Clockwise-rotating eddies in the northern hemisphere are called anticyclones.

4. Smaller eddies spin off the warm anticyclones. These rotate in the opposite direction, and are called cyclones.

A. In an anticyclone, warm water converges in the eddy center and is pushed toward the seaþoor [sic, sea floor]. Anticyclones contain few nutrients to support plant and animal life. They can be thought of as “ocean deserts.”

B. Cyclones draw cold, nutrient-rich water from the deep gulf up toward the surface. Near the surface the combination of sunlight and plenty of nutrients creates an “ocean oasis,” with abundant plankton for marine animals to eat.

When the oil gets into the ocean currents it can begin to travel the entire globe. If it is possible for some rubber ducks to travel the globe on the currents, it will certainly be possible for this vast volume of oil. Of course, just like the rubber duckies, oil does break apart and biodegrade. Below is some description of global ocean currents:

At the earth’s poles, when water freezes, the salt doesn’t necessarily freeze with it, so a large volume of dense cold, salt water is left behind. When this dense water sinks to the ocean floor, more water moves in to replace it, creating a current. The new water also gets cold and sinks, continuing the cycle and creating the Global Conveyor Belt.

The global conveyor belt begins with the cold water near the North Pole and heads south between South America and Africa toward Antarctica, partly directed by the landmasses it encounters. In Antarctica, it gets recharged with more cold water and then splits in two directions -- one section heads to the Indian Ocean and the other to the Pacific Ocean. As the two sections near the equator, they warm up and rise to the surface in what you may remember as upwelling. When they can't go any farther, the two sections loop back to the South Atlantic Ocean and finally back to the North Atlantic Ocean, where the cycle starts again.

The global conveyor belt moves much more slowly than surface currents — a few centimeters per second, compared to tens or hundreds of centimeters per second. Scientists estimate that it takes one section of the belt 1,000 years to complete one full circuit of the globe. However slow it is, though, it moves a vast amount of water — more than 100 times the flow of the Amazon River.

In addition to the Global Conveyor Belt there are a variety of great gyre currents in the world’s oceans. All the currents and their feeders, spinoffs and eddies have the potential to carry the oil.

Circular wind patterns create spiral ocean currents called gyres. Five major gyres flow both north and south of the equator: the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific and Indian Ocean gyres. Smaller gyres also exist at the poles, and one circulates around Antarctica. Short-lasting, smaller currents often spin off both small and large gyres.

The currents may work to clean up the spill as well as spread it around. This article from Nieman Watchdog points out:

  • Crude oil is a natural substance, composed of a galaxy of hydrocarbon compounds, ranging from gasoline to tar. Compared to infinitely more toxic refined oil products like Diesel fuel, it is unstable and tends to disintegrate into volatile compounds.
  • Much of it will evaporate, given the right conditions.
  • What won’t evaporate will be attacked by oil-eating microbes in the sea water.
  • The degree of evaporation and the success of the microbe attack will depend upon several factors:
    1. The chemistry of the crude oil in question.
    2. The temperature of the air and of the water.
    3. The dynamic action of sun, wind and waves at the spill site.

  • The BP spill is unquestionably a calamity. There will be enormous costs, including costs to fish and wildlife interests. There will be some wetlands damage. But many of the same factors that ameliorated the Tobago spill are at work off the mouth of the Mississippi. Strong southeast winds have been spreading the spill and encouraging its evaporation. Air temperatures in the 80s water temperatures in the 70s and plenty of sun have encouraged the attack of oil-eating microbes.

    The month before the oil spill in Tobago [July 1979] the Mexican oil company Pemex had its Ixtoc I rig blow out in the Bay of Campeche, 600 miles south of the Texas coast. That resulted in one of the largest oil spills in history. The drilling platform burned and collapsed in an accident intriguingly similar to that of the BP rig off Louisiana. The well leaked from 10,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day for eight months before it was capped. Yet resulting coastal damage was minimal.

    How much oil there is, how widespread the damage, and how long it will take to recover are all still unknown. And the federal government does not seem to be in a hurry to learn. Wildlife and human beings will suffer, how many, how much, and how long are all still unknown.

    ________

    Update: May 24:

    How Much Oil’s Spilling? It’s Not Rocket Science


    Once one converts all the units and multiplies these numbers, the calculations show that a bit more than 70,000 barrels of oil have been leaking out of the pipe daily. He’s [Wereley] since upped his estimate by another 20,000 barrels a day because of other smaller leaks.

    Wereley said that the leak may be 20 percent more or less than his best estimate, but it’s still far, far above the 5,000 barrels per day that BP kept proclaiming until very recently — about 20 times as great.

    And from John Robb at Global Guerrillas

    LEAKING LEGITIMACY

    … prominent oceanographers [are] accusing the government of failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope… The scientists point out that in the month since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the government has failed to make public a single test result on water from the deep ocean. …

    Over the last month, it’s become increasingly clear that there is a coordinated information operations campaign in place to downplay the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The US government and British Petroleum have imposed a scientific and media blackout to prevent the gathering of the information on the oil leak needed to generate precise estimates …

    Why is this effort in place? To reduce the political damage to both the government and BP. …

    Of course, this type of behavior is extremely bad over the longer term. Why is it so bad? For an increasing number of people it is yet another example of an approach, reinforced by ongoing global financial disasters, that uses media manipulation and confidence boosting as a substitute for real solutions. It fails to punish bad behavior due to the need for collusion between the government and the offending corporations to construct the information campaign. It fails to construct real solutions since the facts are not known and the number of people able to address the problem is extremely limited. Also, since these people are the same people that caused the crisis, real solutions are avoided to prevent adverse publicity. Most importantly, it is yet another body blow to the nation-state and the global market system as legitimate organizational constructs.

    The Gulf spill could end up dumping the equivalent of 4 Exxon Valdez spills per week.
    ________
    This post is continued in Oil Spilling In The Ocean Currents and Into Coastal Wetlands
    ________

    The Wall Street Journal reports that the well lacked a remote-control shut-off switch that is required by Brazil and Norway, two other major oil-producing nations.

    Experts have said that the remote-control switch may have been able to shut off the Deepwater Horizon well, and critics of have said the lack of the remote control is a sign U.S. authorities have been too lax with the industry.

    NWS forecast for oil spill spread in Gulf of Mexico as of May 3, 2010. Click on any of the pictures here to enlarge.

    The worst-case scenario for the broken and leaking well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico would be the loss of the wellhead currently restricting the flow to 5,000 barrels — or 210,000 gallons per day.

    If the wellhead is lost, oil could leave the well at a much greater rate, perhaps up to 150,000 barrels — or more than 6 million gallons per day — based on government data showing daily production at another deepwater Gulf well.

    By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill was 11 million gallons total. The Gulf spill could end up dumping the equivalent of 4 Exxon Valdez spills per week. (al.com)

    And no one knows for certain how or when they can shut down the flow.

    In this aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning Wednesday, April 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    The [Deepwater Horizon] platform exploded on April 20 and sank two days later, leaving 11 workers missing and presumed dead, and producing one of the largest oil spills in history in U.S. water.

    Soon after the explosion and sinking of the platform, which houses the machinery used to extract oil from the ocean floor through a hole called an oil well, the New York Times reported that federal authorities have recorded more than 500 fires on oil platforms, two deaths and 12 serious injuries due to platform fires in the Gulf of Mexico since 2006. None of the accidents has slowed the rate of drilling in the Gulf, which has increased over the past decade. In the aftermath of the explosion, industry officials said that despite the loss of the Deepwater Horizon, drilling in the Gulf will likely continue as usual.

    MMS is currently investigating a whistleblower’s claims that BP had broken the law by not keeping an up-to-date set of records on the oil platform Atlantis, also located in the Gulf of Mexico. In the event of an emergency, such records would be vital to shut down the platform. According to an email from a BP executive, not having the records could lead to “catastrophic operator errors.” Atlantis, which is located 190 miles south of New Orleans, is the largest oil platform of any kind in the world. (whistleblower.org)

    This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Saturday April 24, 2010 shows oil leaking from the drill pipe of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig after it sank Thursday. (AP photo/US Coast Guard)

    Kinks in the piping created as the rig sank to the seafloor may be all that is preventing the Deepwater Horizon well from releasing its maximum flow. BP is now drilling a relief well as the ultimate fix. The company said Thursday that process would take up to 3 months.

    Diagram of what is going on beneath the oil slick

    Sand is an integral part of the formations that hold oil under the Gulf. That sand, carried in the oil as it shoots through the piping, is blamed for the ongoing erosion described by BP.

    “The pipe could disintegrate. You’ve got sand getting into the pipe, its eroding the pipe all the time, like a sandblaster,” said Ron Gouget, a former oil spill response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    “When the oil is removed normally, it comes out at a controlled rate. You can still have abrasive particles in that. Well, now, at this well, its coming out at fairly high velocity,” Gouget continued. “Any erosive grains are abrading the inside of the pipe and all the steel that comes in contact with the liquid. It’s essentially sanding away the pipe.”

    An April 25, 2010 satellite photo provided by NASA shows a portion of an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, with ships visible at bottom left. (AP Photo/via NASA)

    The formation that was being drilled by the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded and sank last week is reported to have tens of millions of barrels of oil. A barrel contains 42 gallons.

    “The loss of a wellhead, this is totally unprecedented,” said Gouget. “How bad it could get from that, you will have a tremendous volume of oil that is going to be offgassing on the coast. Depending on how much wind is there, and how those gases build up, that’s a significant health concern.” (al.com)

    The growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is captured in this image from NASA's (MODIS) instrument aboard the Terra satellite. This natural-color image acquired April 29, 2010 shows a twisting patch of oil nearly 125 km (78 mi) wide. (NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen/University of Wisconsin SSEC

    A publicly available Halliburton PowerPoint presentation from last November might tell us a lot about what could have caused the oil blowout, fire and massive oil gushing at the Horizon rig.

    Suppose you’re that division of Halliburton that has the dangerous job of “cementing” the drilling hole and the gaps between the hole and pipe. You’ve done this lots of times in shallow water wells, but you’ve learned through previous experience in deep water there’s a particularly difficult problem having to do with the presence of gas that has seeped to the ocean floor and been captured in essentially “frozen” crystallized formations.

    The problem is that when you drill into these formations, and then try to inject cement into the hole/gaps to prevent leakage, the curing process for that creates heat. That heat can, if not controlled, cause the gas to escape the frozen crystals. If a lot of gas is released all at once, as could happen during the cement/curing process, it can cause a blowout where the cementing is occurring, or force gas and/or oil up the pipeline to the drilling rig on the surface. And the heat created by the process may be just enough to ignite the gas, causing the explosion and fire.

    Did this happen at the Horizon rig? And if Halliburton already knew about this problem months (years) ago, and knew the risks it might create, why are we just now learning about this?

    From Halliburton’s presentation (large pdf), page 10, last November (my bold):

    Challenges

    • Shallow water flow may occur during or after cement job
    Under water blow out has happened
    • Gas flow may occur after a cement job in deepwater environments that contain major hydrate zones.
    • Destabilization of hydrates after the cement job is confirmed by downhole cameras.
    • The gas flow could slow down in hours to days if the de- stabilization is not severe.
    • However, the consequences could be more severe in worse cases.

    Page 13 lists the design objectives but then concedes they can’t all be met at once:

    Deepwater Well Objectives
    • Cement slurry should be placed in the entire annulus with no losses
    • Temperature increase during slurry hydration should not destabilize hydrates
    • There should be no influx of shallow water or gas into the annulus
    • The cement slurry should develop strength in the shortest time after placement
    Conditions in deepwater wells are not
    conducive to achieving all of these
    objectives simultaneously

    The presentation goes on to explain various options for dealing with the risks and assess the relative merits and costs. What’s interesting is that Halliburton appears to have been working at the edge of the technology and was not certain what would happen. Most experience was in shallower waters and no one was certain what would happen in deep waters. It conducted tests, but it’s not clear how complete or realistic those tests were or how costs factored into the choice of techniques. (FDL Scarecrow)

    Those negotiating deep water drilling contracts in Africa should take this to heart. One thing that should be possible is that a remote shut off should be a requirement in any deepwater drilling contract, though I’m not holding my breath. You cannot depend on the oil companies to police themselves, or even to make realistic assessments of the dangers and potential costs, particularly if they are not likely to pay much of those costs. We have the Niger Delta to remind us just how civic minded the oil companies can be, and how well leadership has stood up for the governed in dealing with the oil companies. The US has unleashed this monster upon itself because it has confused the corporate predator state with democracy, and governs more despite the people than for the people.

    ________

    See more amazing photos from the Boston Globe, including the photos posted here.

    See more maps and photos at the US Coast Guard Deep Horizon Flickr photo stream.

    See the larger satellite view of the last picture above of the Gulf coastline.

    The Oil Drum has some good explanation and informed speculation as to what happened: Tech Talk: Revisiting Oil Well Pressures and Blowout Preventers after BP’s Oil Spill.

    ________

    This post is continued in Oil Spilling In The Ocean Currents and Into Coastal Wetlands

    Huge deposits of oil have been identified in Uganda along the shore of Lake Albert:
    Uganda’s oil reserves rival Saudi Arabia’s, says US expert

    map of Uganda showing the Bunyoro kingdom in green

    map of Uganda showing the Bunyoro kingdom in green, located along the side of Lake Albert, where much of the oil is located

    Uganda along lake Albert.  The white line in the lake is the border between Uganda and DRC.  On the Unganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map.  These are of particular interest to the oil business.

    Uganda along lake Albert, the white line in the lake is the border between Uganda and DRC. On the Uganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map. These are locations of oil discoveries.

    The southern portion of Lake Albert in Uganda including most of oil Block 3A (map added 4/2010)

    These are the oil blocks around Lake Albert, with Uganda on the east/right, and the DRC on the west/left.

    These are the oil blocks around Lake Albert, with Uganda on the east/right, and the DRC on the west/left

    KAMPALA, UGANDA – Uganda’s oil reserves could be as much as that of the Gulf countries, a senior official at the US Department of Energy has said.

    Based on the test flow results encountered at the wells so far drilled and other oil numbers, Ms. Sally Kornfeld, a senior analyst in the office of fossil energy went ahead to talk about Uganda’s oil reservoirs in the same sentence as Saudi Arabia.”You are blessed with amazing reservoirs. Your reservoirs are incredible. I am amazed by what I have seen, you might rival Saudi Arabia,” Kornfeld told a visiting delegation from Uganda in Washington DC.

    The group of Ugandans was in Washington on an international visitor programme and looked at the efficient use of natural energy resources.

    The group comprised Ministry of Energy officials, a Member of Parliament, members from the civil society and one journalist.

    At present, Uganda has four oil prospectors on the ground including Heritage Oil, Tullow Oil, Tower Oil and Dominion Oil.

    Of the four prospectors, Tullow and Heritage have registered success at wells in two blocks in the Albertine basin, which lies in the upper-most part of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley.

    According to data so far aggregated since the first discovery was made by Australian prospector Hardman Resources (now taken over by Tullow) in June 2006, Uganda has established reserves at 3.5 million barrels of oil per day.

    Experts in oil exploration say this could be just a tip of the iceberg.

    In April last year, Tullow embarked on what it termed as a major drilling campaign in the Butiaba area around Lake Albert targeting an overall reserve potential in excess of a billion barrels.

    The Butiaba campaign was preceded by successes in two drilling campaigns in the Kaiso-Tonya area and the Kingfisher field and all these have been 100% successes so far.

    The Butiaba campaign has thrown up successes but the two biggest so far have been the Buffalo-Giraffe wells – described as “one of the largest recent onshore oil discoveries in Africa“.

    “Combined with our other finds in the region, we have now clearly exceeded the thresholds for basin development,” the chief executive of Tullow commented then.

    The Giraffe-1 exploration well, which is located in the Butiaba region, came up with over 38 metres of net oil pay within an 89-metre gross oil bearing interval.

    The data from the Giraffe discovery indicate a net reservoir thickness of 38 metres, the largest encountered in the area to date.

    The Buffalo-1 exploration well in Block 1 encountered 15 metres of net gas pay and over 28 metres of net oil pay.

    The gas and oil columns encountered are 48 metres and 75 metres respectively with the potential to be even larger.

    As Kornfeld marveled at Uganda’s oil finds, she was quick to add that for the country to benefit from the oil and gas resources but also avoid the pitfalls of oil producing countries like Nigeria, it is extremely important to set up strong governance structures.

    Kornfeld and the other United States officials said they are ready to help Uganda’s nascent oil and gas sector with anything including the key environmental issues that are crucial to the efficient management of oil and gas.

    Anything you might want us to help you with we will and we have a lot of expertise in environmental issues relating to oil and gas,” Kornfeld said.

    And in a quote from the article written a year ago, with the oil blocks pictured above:

    “The Albert Basin now looks increasingly like it has the elements to make it a world-class petroleum basin. The flow rates, even constrained by available completion and test facilities, far exceeded our expectations,” Tony Buckingham says.

    It is certainly true the the US has a lot of experience, and one might say expertise, in environmental issues relating to oil and gas. Unfortunately much of that expertise and experience is involved in circumventing and evading environmental law and responsible environmental management.

    Then, as Ms. Kornfeld said, there is the issue of avoiding the pitfalls of other oil producing countries like Nigeria. In general, the US has supported the policies and governments in Nigeria that have engineered these pitfalls, into seemingly bottomless pits, working along with the US based oil corporations operating in Nigeria. So although they might know what to avoid in order to be socially and environmentally responsible, there is no indication that the US government or the oil corporations have any intention of acting in socially or environmentally responsible ways. Uganda does not have much history of environmentalism it can point to with pride either. So far the US response to African oil issues has been almost entirely military, hence AFRICOM, the US Africa Command.

    The Uganda government may be strong in the sense of using muscle to insure compliance. It employs muscle internally against dissent, and externally to assist in exploiting the resources of its neighbors, particularly in the DRC. However its democratic history is weak, and employment of any form of participatory democracy in decision making is sadly lacking. The US has been an enthusiastic supporter of Uganda’s “strength”. Mahmood Mamdani points out that Museveni has been a US proxy in Rwanda, and is still a US proxy in the DRC. AMISOM soldiers from Uganda are in Somalia acting as US proxies, and the underlying issue there too is oil.

    Musevenis name means son of a man of the seventh, meaning from the Seventh Battalion of the Kings Africa Rifles. That seems ironically appropriate, as Uganda is acting as a US proxy in the DRC, Somalia, and Ugandan mercenaries have played a prominent role in Iraq. US proxy warriors in Africa have been referred to as Bush’s Africa Rifles, now Obama’s Africa Rifles, not too different from the colonial proxy war tradition of the King’s Africa Rifles.

    Museveni has shown no interest in allowing any democratic opposition to his presidency. In May he declared: I see no successor in NRM.

    He may have ruled Uganda for the past twenty three years but President Yoweri Museveni is still hesitant to hand over power, not even to members of the National Resistance Movement, of which he is the leader.

    On Thursday the president told NRM Members of Parliament that while he would be “happy” to hand over power, he saw “nobody” ready to take on the daunting responsibility of leading Uganda.

    So the Uganda government will continue to run along lines that Museveni sees as in his/Uganda’s interest. I don’t know if this is the “strong governance structures” to which Kornfeld refers. It may well be. She and her cronies may see this as the most convenient way for the US to access Ugandan oil. But it cannot be described as democratic, or in any way resembling participatory democracy. Unless people who live where the resources are can benefit from those resources, and have some say in how they are disposed, there will be conflict. And problems are already brewing. In April 2009 Uganda Bunyoro Kingdom Threatens Lawsuit over Oil Exploration:

    Cultural leaders of Uganda’s Bunyoro kingdom, located on the Ugandan side of the oil-rich Albertine rift, have threatened legal action against the central government over oil exploration and production activities there, a kingdom official said Monday, but the government has promised talks to resolve the issue.

    Yolamu Nsamba, the principal private secretary of the king of Bunyoro, said the government has breached the pre-independence agreement of 1955, which provides that Bunyoro is entitled to substantial amounts of revenue from mineral exploration in its kingdom.

    “For years now, the central government has been dealing with oil exploration companies secretly yet the law has never been changed,” he said, adding that kingdom officials have already informed the central government of its intentions.

    A government official told Dow Jones Newswires separately Monday that the central government would soon start talks with kingdom officials to resolve the issue. Uganda is expected to embark on an early oil production scheme in the first quarter of 2010.

    The 1955 agreement was signed between the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and the U.K. protectorate government and stipulates that in the event of mineral development taking place in Bunyoro, a substantial part of the mineral royalties and revenue from mining leases would be paid to the native government of Bunyoro Kitara.

    Bunyoro remains influential in Uganda although its cultural leaders are prohibited from engaging in national politics.

    It will be interesting to see how Bunyoro fares in maintaining some control over its riches. And there are troubles with the neighbors too. In May 2009 Uganda beefs up marine surveillance on its waters.

    Uganda has stepped up security on its waterways and is quietly revamping its marine police in anticipation of tensions with its neighbours over the country’s natural resources.

    Apparently, the discovery of high-value natural resources such as oil and gas under and near Uganda’s lakes and the need to protect fisheries resources are the imperative behind moves to improve security on the country’s waters.

    The Police Marine Unit has acquired four specialised boats at a cost of $8.6 million to be paid over a period of five years.

    The acquisitions and keen interest in marine security come in the wake of an incident in August 2007, when Congolese troops on the disputed Rukwanzi island in Lake Albert shot and killed oil prospectors who were carrying out surveys on the Ugandan side of the lake.

    Officials say terror threats have also underscored the need for improving security on the country’s lakes because Uganda’s main Entebbe airport — the kind of key infrastructure usually targeted by terrorists — is located on a peninsula in Lake Victoria.

    Much as the boats are up and running and have recently been seen around Migingo island, over which Kenya and Uganda are squabbling, questions are being raised over the capacity of the police to take on and maintain such infrastructure both financially and technically.

    Uganda is landlocked, so issues of how and where the oil will be refined and transported are still up in the air. Tullow, Heritage Face Tough Choices on Uganda Oil Devt.

    After remarkable exploration success in Uganda, Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN) and Heritage Oil Ltd. (HOIL.LN) face tough choices over how to develop the oil they’ve discovered.

    Both companies face immense infrastructure challenges bringing the oil from its remote region to world markets. They have to walk a fine line between their commercial goals and the sometimes conflicting ambitions of the Ugandan government. Tullow and Heritage also have to handle overtures from much larger rivals that want in on the substantial quantities of oil they have discovered.

    “Lake Albert is a multibillion-barrel basin,” with great potential to expand reserves even further once problems with licenses on the Congolese side of the lake are resolved and exploration begins there, said Paul Atherton, chief financial officer of Heritage.

    Tullow and Heritage have long talked of exporting the Lake Albert oil to world markets via Kenya, initially by rail to the port of Mombassa and eventually through a large enough pipeline to carry the 150,000 barrels of oil per day the basin is thought to be capable of producing.

    The government has clashed recently with Tullow over the pipeline, said an official at the energy and minerals ministry.

    And Uganda’s energy minister recently said no unrefined oil should be exported from Uganda and instead the country should build a refinery to process all domestic crude and supply oil products to the whole region.

    As talks on the development move slowly forward, one voice that has been heard little so far is that of the local communities, said Dickens Kamugisha, chief executive of the African Institute for Energy Governance, a non-governmental organization based in the Ugandan capital.

    Local people are worried about the problems caused in Nigeria, Angola and Chad by the exploitation of oil resources and unchecked flows of petrodollars to governments with a reputation for corruption, he said. “The process has been secretive,” with insufficient public discussion over the competing development plans and no publication of the production-sharing contracts between the Ugandan government and the companies, he said.

    Tullow and Heritage stressed that they have maintained good relationships with local communities. Tullow said it has shown local people around their drill sites to explain what they are doing and both companies are contributing to local development by funding schools, health clinics and even lifeboat training on the lake. Employment of local people “would be an integral part of any development plan,” along the lines of work the company has done in Ghana, said McDade.

    Kamugisha acknowledged the local work of the companies, but expressed concern about the lack of transparency from the government. He said he wants the Ugandan government to follow the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and declare all oil revenues openly in order to prevent corruption. Both Tullow and Heritage said they are happy to disclose the terms of their contracts — which they described as containing good terms for Uganda — if the government allows it.

    Whether this is enough is unclear. A dispute is already brewing over who controls rights to minerals in the Lake Albert area and how revenues will be distributed between the government and leaders of the Bunyoro Kingdom — the ethnic grouping that occupies districts on the lake’s eastern shore . Local communities “say they have been completely left out of the process and are not satisfied,” said Kamugisha.

    It looks like some rough roads ahead.

    __________

    Note:
    h/t to b real whose research identified many of the links above
    Bunyoro map from Face Music – History of Uganda
    Oil blocks pictured above blocks from this article .

    __________

    October 15 2011:

    For more on this topic see:
    If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy including the documents in the comments.

    For more on the first attempt of the Pentagon to go after Kony and the LRA see:
    Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target
    and
    Botched raid.

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