The pipeline, which has previously been criticised by environmental activists and rights groups, passes through multiple ecologically sensitive areas in Uganda.
A planned oil pipeline to help Uganda export its crude to international markets has “devastated” the lives of thousands of people who have experienced delayed or inadequate compensation for their land, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.
The rights group also said the project, in which TotalEnergies has a 62 percent stake, is a disaster for the planet as it will add emissions that exacerbate climate change.
France’s TotalEnergies rejected HRW’s accusations, saying it was respecting all the rights of affected people.
Planned at a cost of $3.5bn, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) will carry crude from oilfields in Uganda’s west through Tanzania to the Indian Ocean seaport of Tanga, a length of 1,445km (898 miles).
Preliminary ground work began earlier this year and the pipeline is scheduled for completion in 2025.
Those displaced by the pipeline have received inadequate compensation and multiyear delays in receiving that compensation, HRW said in a statement.
“EACOP has been a disaster for the tens of thousands who have lost the land that provided food for their families and an income to send their children to school, and who received too little compensation from TotalEnergies.”
HRW said it had conducted over 90 interviews earlier this year, including with 75 displaced families in 5 districts in Uganda.
A TotalEnergies spokesperson told the Reuters news agency the firm and its partners are committed to addressing the rights of affected people as well as the environmental and biodiversity impact of the project.
“We are doing everything to ensure it [EACOP] is a model in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, economic and social progress,” the spokesperson said, adding that those affected were being relocated to nearby areas and would experience better living conditions.
Nearly everyone affected by the project has been compensated, he said.
EACOP has already drawn criticism from clean energy advocates and other rights groups who say the project has caused mass displacement and will ruin multiple ecologically sensitive areas along its path in both countries.
Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate also supported a campaign called #StopEACOP to dissuade insurers and banks from financing the project.
Environmental activists have urged lenders around the world not to help fund the project and some banks have vowed not to participate in its financing.
Uganda’s long-serving president, Yoweri Museveni, has endorsed the project, warning that he will not “allow anybody to play around” with “my oil”.
The process of acquiring land for the project, HRW added, had “caused severe financial hardships for thousands of Ugandan farmers, including heavy household debt.”
Government leaders in Uganda and Tanzania say a rapidly developing oil drilling and cross-border pipeline programme will lift people’s living standards across the region. But some residents living near the project sites say they have so far seen little benefit, while environmental groups say the initiative could devastate sensitive lands and undermine efforts to address the global climate emergency.