Greasy step forward

Friday 15 August 2003

The landlocked African nation of Chad has begun pumping oil to Cameroon through a 1000-kilometre underground pipeline as part of a deal aimed at alleviating poverty in both countries. Chad's leaders have given an assurance that they would invest the majority of the revenue in education, health and agriculture. But experts fear the project could bring about an environmental disaster and will actually not benefit the people of either country.

Sponsors, however, believe the venture could yield revenues worth us $2 billion for Chad and us $500 million for Cameroon over 25 years. The deal was inked in 1996 and construction of the pipeline began in 2000. Initially, about 50,000 barrels are expected to be produced each day. Later, this could go up to 250,000 barrels, discloses Simon Tamfu, commercial director, National Hydrocarbons Company of Cameroon.

The World Bank supplied 3 per cent of the financing for the project. It has set up an independent panel to monitor the money generated, considering widespread corruption in the region. The stakeholders are ExxonMobil, Petronas-Malaysia and ChevronTexaco.

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