Total Energies’ General Manager, Phillipe Groeuix has said whereas there are many detractors to Uganda’s oil project in form of environmentalists both locally and from the international community, they are committed to ensure the project is a success.

There have been several voices of dissent from several African and international environmental and human rights organizations who started a campaign to stop the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.

These had sought  to frustrate the $10-billion deal signed by Chinese and French oil giants CNOOC and Total Energies committing to construct the pipeline  arguing that it risks damaging one of the world’s most biodiverse regions.

However, many have since been silenced after it was indicated they were on a smear campaign.

On Wednesday, the French company reinforced its commitment to sustainability initiatives by signing four agreements with Safe Way Right Way, Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda (CCFU) ,Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the  Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust in a bid to enhance road safety, cultural heritage and biodiversity conservation in the Albertine region.

“Detractors(of this project) in Uganda are many. There are many more outside Uganda but we want to prove them wrong in the sense that this development is good for the environment, for the communities and the most vulnerable people and the country. We will prove them wrong that instead of being bad, this project is a big opportunity,” Phillipe Groeuix, Total Energies’ General Manager said.

“We want to prove them this project is an opportunity for biodiversity, the communities, local culture and local development and it is something that will drive economic development, cultural and heritage development among others.”

The Total Energies General Manager said the French giants having launched the Tilenga Biodiversity Programme to compensate any likely impact from oil and gas activities in the Albertine Graben Area, they have embarked on several other activities all aimed at ensuring the project benefits everyone.

He however insisted that the French company is committed towards ensuring that its activities are conducted in line with best environmental and social practices.

“We are committed to working with partners who are experts in implementing sustainable projects aimed at achieving positive outcomes for conservation, culture and communities. These agreements are just the beginning of a much bigger programme of partnerships for the implementation of our actions for sustainability.”

According to Barbara Babweteera Mutambi, the Executive Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda, under this arrangement, several activities will be undertaken to ensure preservation of culture and heritage of communities in the Albertine Graben.

“We hope to scale out our activities to further safeguard and promote heritage resources within the Albertine region. Under the project titled “Culture for Livelihood (CUL)”, CCFU will safeguard and promote culture as key to improving community and individual livelihood. Key activities to be undertaken under this program include identifying, safeguarding and promoting traditional knowledge, facilitation of value addiction in crafts making and traditional music,” she noted.

“By so doing, we shall empower communities to use culture and arts as a driver for locally-driven development. The artistic and design skills of craft‐workers will be strengthened and the age‐old tradition of passing on the artistic skills from one generation to another will be improved.”

Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust Executive Director, Dr.Joshua Rukundo said Total Energies has developed strategies to use new cleaner ways of extracting energy, adding with getting what is needed and protecting the environment , the Memorandum of Understanding will see them address these environmental issues.

The agreements will also see a campaign named “Road Safety at Heart” which  prioritizes road safety sensitization and awareness in schools with a specific emphasis on young children and youths in the Albertine Region and this  seeks to reach 100 schools, and over 38,000 students in Bullisa and other districts in the area.