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“Oil industry people are piling up money to save in the North, and putting the Cameroonians they hire under a modern form of slavery.” Chad-Cameroon pipeline worker.
“The banana trees that are going to be cut down, the manioc, the corn, the peanuts... We don’t agree with the prices that we get. Really, we are betrayed by this compensation. ” Villager near Bélabo.
“ I am concerned about the environment. Looking around me I see rivers drying out, birds disappearing, the wood is drying out, too. It feels as if soon it will be a desert here. They’re clearing a large strip of forest that acted as a windshield for us against the strong winds from the sea. It’s clear that we will be exposed now, many of us will have problems. The roofs might get damaged and so on. And our underbush will lose the freshness it used to have. But we’re told this project is of international importance ... We have no way of opposing it, we will have to live with it. ” Village chief near Kribi.
It’s an old hunting trick. Using powder made from the bark of the Moabi tree, the pygmies of the Cameroon forest make a camouflage potion to disguise themselves from their prey. They then disappear into the forest.
The Baka tribe’s vast knowledge of the plant and animal life of the forest has sustained them for centuries. The continued exploitation of Cameroon’s natural resources via the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, however, will bring an end to these indigenous people’s symbiotic relationship with their environment. Deforestation, resettlement, pollution and overburdened resources will force these communities into cultural and economic oblivion.
The US$3.7 billion oil pipeline will stretch 1,070 kilometres through Chad to the Cameroonian port of Kribi. It will cut through rainforest, pygmy territories and major food and cotton producing areas. Resulting oil spills could have an enormous impact on the livelihoods of local people, and it has been estimated that thousands of fishermen will be put out of work. Livelihoods will be lost along with fragile ecological systems.
In late 1999, the project appeared to be doomed when two of the companies involved, Royal Dutch Shell and TotalFinaElf, dropped out of the consortium, reportedly partly due to environmental opposition by communities and groups including Friends of the Earth. However, ExxonMobil has since been joined by US-based Chevron and Malaysia’s Petronas, and the World Bank and European Investment Bank provided $200 and $120 million respectively for the project in 2000 despite opposition of campaign groups.
The project is off to a rocky start. It has been revealed that the President of Chad used $4.5 million of the Bank funds designated for the pipeline to buy weapons, rather than investing in public health, education and vital infrastructure as was agreed. Furthermore, as the FoEI report “Broken Promises”reveals, many of the dire warnings of NGOs about the project have already proven correct, with commitments on issues like employment and compensation for affected people being ignored.