Experts criticise Chad-Cameroon Oil Plans

15 September 1998

Critical findings from a World Bank environmental team have set back the planned approval of World Bank support for the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. The team of seven environmental experts reviewed the environmental assessment and management plans for both Chad and Cameroon, as well as the Compensation and Resettlement Plan for Chad (the one for Cameroon is not yet available).

They concluded that the nine volumes of reports do not provide an adequate basis for WB appraisal of the project. Information on resettlement planning in Chadian villages potentially affected by the pipeline could not be gathered because of security issues, leading the team to comment: “if security concerns prevent adequate data gathering, the project is probably not ready to be implemented.”

Other key points raised by the World Bank Group reviewers include:

  1. The public review process only started once the environmental documents had been negotiated with the governments and finalized.
  2. Lack of schedules and costs on mitigation plans, lack of baseline data and insufficient analysis of indirect impacts (such as migration into project area).
  3. Lack of indigenous peoples development plan to deal with interference with migratory routes and dry season grazing lands of transhumant pastoralists.
  4. No documentation on alternative pipeline routings to bypass ecologically sensitive areas such as the Mbere Rift Valley and the Deng Deng forest.
  5. No detailed criteria for involuntary resettlement assistance eligibility.
  6. No provisions for independent monitoring of project impacts and effectiveness of mitigation, compensation and resettlement.

Exxon estimates that re-routing the pipeline would cost $ 50 million and has mounted a lobbying exercise in Washington to try to persuade the Bank to override these criticisms. The NGO campaign critical of the oil companies and of Bank support is growing, with new members including the Senegal-based Association of African Women for Research and Development. Yassine Fall, its Executive Secretary, recently commented “the choice made by the Bank to put IFC funds and even IDA funds to support transnational corporations is wrong. … if poverty is a serious concern to the Bank, Mr Wolfensohn should tackle it in a more direct fashion.”