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Albertine Rift course graduates use economic tools for smart infrastructure development

People, Roads, and Gorillas in Southwestern Uganda

As part of CSF’s Biodiversity Understanding in Infrastructure and Landscape Development (BUILD) program funded by USAID and the Handsel Foundation, CSF course graduate Stephen Asuma, Program Officer at the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, will receive support to perform a cost benefit analysis of the economic and environmental impacts of a proposed road upgrade that would go through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mr. Asuma and his team of researchers will then compare the analysis to an alternative road project that would connect the local population of 13,000 people, who currently lack road access, to the road network.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in southwestern Uganda, is home to at least twelve species that are threatened with global extinction. The park’s population of critically endangered mountain gorillas makes up half the world’s remaining population of only 780 gorillas, and is a main attraction for the 17,000 tourists who visit the park annually. However, improving the state of the roads would help keep Bwindi National Park competitive with other gorilla tourism destinations in the region. Yet road development also brings the potential for adverse environmental impacts including habitat fragmentation, land clearing, increased incidences of trash and fire, and threats to the gorillas’ and other wildlife’s health and safety.

This analysis project will consider these impacts and compare the Bwindi Park road upgrade to an alternative project that would build a road outside of the park’s boundaries, which would serve the communities that lack road access. The research group will then provide information and recommendations to stakeholders and decision-makers regarding the most environmentally and economically viable steps for road improvements in the area.

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Oil Pipeline Construction Decisions in the Albertine Rift

Through CSF’s Biodiversity Understanding in Infrastructure and Landscape Development (BUILD) program funded by USAID and the Handsel Foundation, CSF course graduate Geoffrey Mwedde, Western Uganda Regional Manager for the Wildlife Conservation Society, will receive support to perform a cost-effectiveness analysis of a new oil pipeline construction project in western Uganda. The Ugandan government has been moving fast to utilize recently discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the Albertine Graben region of the Albertine Rift, which is one of the most biologically diverse regions in Africa. The pipeline needs to connect the central processing facilities near Murchison Falls National Park to a refinery in the Kabale parish in the Hoima district. The construction is likely to affect biodiversity conservation and human livelihoods as the pipeline will likely go through human settlements, critical habitats and ecosystems, and geo-hazardous areas.

The route of the pipeline is still to be determined and the Wildlife Conservation Society research team aims to find the most financially and environmentally acceptable route through qualitative and quantitative analysis. A team of experts chosen by the Ugandan government has undertaken a strategic environment assessment (SEA) for the proposed pipeline in order to minimize the environmental damage to the region; however, the studies needed to provide analysis and recommendations on the pipeline route fall outside the scope of the government assessment.
With CSF’s support, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s research team can offer suggestions for the most economically and environmentally sound route for the pipeline.

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Oil Development Impacts on Biodiversity in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park, located in the Albertine Rift in Uganda, is home to both a staggering amount of biodiversity and to recently discovered commercial quantities of oil and gas. As the Ugandan government moves forward with plans to develop oil pipeline and refinery infrastructure, there is a need for the economic analysis to be complemented with in-depth assessments of the wider social, environmental and biodiversity impacts of the pipeline to reach equitable and sustainable decisions. CSF’s Biodiversity Understanding in Infrastructure and Landscape Development (BUILD) program funded by USAID will provide technical and monetary support for CSF course graduate Isaac Ntujju, Uganda National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) Senior Environmental Inspector, and course graduate Tom Obong Okello, the Uganda Wildlife Authority's (UWA) Murchison Falls Conservation Area Manager. They will work to identify and quantify the potential environmental impacts of the planned oil pipeline within Murchison Falls National Park.

The development of the estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil and gas in the region must be weighed against the importance of Murchison Falls National Park as Uganda’s biggest and most biodiverse national park. Uganda’s environmental assessments in the past have often lacked critical information on environmental and biodiversity costs associated with infrastructure projects. These cost estimates need to be included in the decision making process to adopt precautionary measures to mitigate negative impacts and prevent huge environmental losses. The results of these assessments can also be applied to other regions in the Albertine Rift to ensure that Uganda does not jeopardize this biological hotspot while pursuing national development projects.

In addition to the lead researchers on this project Mr. Ntujju and Mr. Obong Okello, several other members of the research team are CSF course graduates, including NEMA’s District Support Officer Evelyn Lutalo, NEMA’s Project Officer Clearing House Mechanism Monique Akullo and UWA’s Mitigation and Monitoring Officer Moses Dhabasadh.