Posts Tagged ‘rainforest’

Crude Awakening, Part two

Fisherman at Bume, pipeline terminus. Photo by Christiane Badgley

The World Bank-supported Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline looks a lot different on the ground than it does from offices in Washington, D.C.  Is the project a success? Depends who you ask!

One thing is certain: the controversy surrounding the “model” oil development project has hardly died down.

This video looks at ongoing compensation problems around Kribi, Cameroon.  The Cameroonian Oil Transportation Company, COTCO (ExxonMobil), is responsible for compensating locals for lost lands and revenues.

Traveling from the fishing village of Bumé where locals have been suffering since pipeline construction crews destroyed their fishing grounds, to the Bagyeli pygmy villages in the rainforest, where the Bank-mandated, “Indigenous Peoples’ Plan”, has been stalled for years, I met one angry resident after another.

Today people are especially frustrated as they feel they have no recourse. The government is unresponsive; COTCO (ExxonMobil) is unresponsive. There’s nowhere for people to go with their complaints. It seems the world has forgotten about the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline.

En route

CDG0001Here I am watching the Paris drizzle from terminal 2C at Charles de Gaulle airport, waiting for my flight to Douala. After months of discussions and proposal writing and waiting for the rainy season to (almost) end, I’m finally off to Cameroon.

My plan is to eventually travel the length of the pipeline, to see up-close how this project has really affected people in Chad and Cameroon. On this first trip, I’ll explore the last 250 kilometers of the pipeline, a section that passes close to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, and then continues through the rainforest to the town of Kribi, on the Atlantic coast.

The forest between Yaoundé and Kribi is home to the Bagyeli, one of Cameroon’s two pygmy populations. The World Bank and the ExxonMobil-led consortium were convinced the pipeline project would help the Bagyeli. As part of the mitigation process, the pipeline consortium established an indigenous peoples’ foundation to run health and education programs for the Bagyeli. Many environmentalists and civil society activists, on the other hand, feared that the pipeline would disrupt the Bagyeli’s already fragile existence. As many Bagyeli continue to rely on the forest for their food and their livelihoods, any damage to the local ecosystem could be devastating.

This is one story that I’ll be looking at in the coming weeks.

But now, it’s boarding time.

Paradise and the Pipeline


Kribi.  It could be paradise.  The small beach town on Cameroon’s Atlantic coast is one of the country’s prime tourist attractions. The dense rainforest stretches almost to the water’s edge; a strip of white sand beach is all that separates the greens of the forest from the turquoise waters.  Just south of town the famous Lobé waterfalls tumble over black volcanic rocks directly into the ocean.  Market women sell and prepare fish right off the boats at the town’s small port.

The first time I visited Kribi was in December, 1994, and the beauty of the place was stunning.  Of course, most of the town was rundown and ramshackle. Electricity ran intermittently and the water was not fit to drink. Unfortunately this was (and is) the story of much of Cameroon.  But Kribi managed somehow to have a certain charm and people spoke proudly of their little corner of paradise.

Continue reading . . .

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