Activists pledge to stop Uganda-Tanzania pipeline to save Serengeti park


An image provided by Serengeti Watch showing the three possible routes of the Kenya-Uganda oil pipeline, the shortest of which passes through the endangered Serengeti National Park.

Activists have pledged to stop the proposed Uganda-Tanzania oil pipeline after some designs showed it could cut through the highly endangered Serengeti National Park.

The activists successfully stopped Tanzania from building a road through the park in 2015.

They said on Wednesday they would revive legal action in the East African Court of Justice if the two countries insist on the shorter and cheaper Serengeti route.

“The pipeline and accompanying road would be a barrier for migrating wildlife and a high risk area for oil spills,” Serengeti Watch said in a statement.

The shorter 1,200-km route through Lake Victoria and the Serengeti is, by some estimates, the same length as the northern route through Kenya.

“The length of such a pipeline is the single biggest factor in its construction cost and subsequent transport cost of oil,” said Serengeti Watch director Dave Blanton.

This route is further complicated by the Lake Victoria, the cost of laying a pipeline under water and heating it, he said.

Reports say Uganda’s oil is thick and needs to be heated to a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius, and that unless diluted, heating stations will be needed at fixed intervals.

Heating oil to the required temperature means the pipeline should not be buried in the ground.

“The Serengeti and areas to the east in the Crater Highlands are seismically active with earthquakes in the six-point range. The risk of a spill would be unacceptably high,” Blanton said.

A longer route along the southern end of Lake Victoria and to the south of the Serengeti is expected to be more costly but will avoid an underwater oil spill into the shallow Lake Victoria.

The pipeline is expected to cost an estimated $12 billion (Sh1.2 trillion) and be completed in 2020, said officials from both countries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta tried to wrestle the pipeline deal back from Tanzania but did not succeed when he met Uganda President Yoweri Museveni on Monday.

Critics say Museveni signed a deal with Tanzanian President John Magufuli two weeks ago and that Nairobi has little chance of turning the tables against Dar es Salaam.

“We did not conclude and we asked the ministers [of Energy] and senior officials to look at a number of issues raised and be ready to brief us within the next two weeks,” Uhuru said after their meeting at State House, Nairobi.