Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has said that the country will develop its oil resources responsibly.
He added that the East African country will also invest in solar, wind and hydropower alongside oil at a time when wealthier countries are urging people to move away form fossil fuel investment.
The government insists that laws and other mechanisms have already been put in place to ensure environmental protection.
Mr Museveni was speaking as Uganda launched oil drilling activities at one of its wells in the Kingfisher Oil Field, in the mid-west of the country. This kicks off the drilling of production wells, and a process that should culminate into the extraction of commercial quantities of oil, expected in 2025.
The oil rig launched today, which was shipped from China and assembled at Kingfisher in Kikuube district, will be operated by Chinese multinational CNOOC.
In recent months, climate activists have campaigned against Uganda’s oil project, especially against a pipeline that is meant to export the oil to the Tanzanian port of Tanga – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop).
Activists say construction of the pipeline will endanger fragile ecosystems and that it makes communities vulnerable to human rights abuses.
But Uganda is determined to carry on with the joint venture project.
Officials have previously argued that while there is global pressure to leave the oil in the ground and focus on developing green energy, Uganda is still living with energy poverty – with the larger part of the population still dependant on wood fuel, and that it should therefore be allowed to exploit its resources.
Of 6.5 billion barrels of crude reserves discovered in the country over 15 years ago, about 1. 4 billion barrels are said to be commercially viable.
Energy officials have said that Uganda is currently carrying out geological mapping of areas in the Karamoja region in the east, and will soon announce a new round of exploration licensing.