WWF condemns oil exploration plans inside Africa’s iconic nature park
Virunga oil drilling
January 2011. WWF calls on UK listed companies SOCO and Dominion to abandon their oil exploration plans in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), warning these actions will undermine decades of work and successful and costly conservation efforts aimed at saving the park’s unique nature.
The UK-listed companies’ plans to drill for oil will be costly for the area’s precious and fragile biodiversity, including, chimpanzees, hippos, elephants and other rare species, as well as the local population who benefit from tourism and sustainable fishing inside the national park.
Africa’s oldest National Park
Africa’s oldest national park and the continent’s first World Heritage Site, Virunga is home to many species of mammals, birds and reptiles, and an impressive diversity of landscape and habitats. It is also home to about 200, almost a quarter, of the earth’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Armed groups are moving out of the park, and the enormous efforts put into conservation work is starting to pay off and the park’s situation is finally improving. But with oil companies coming in all these achievements might be undermined.
Some 30,000 local fishermen who fish sustainably on the park’s Lake Edward, a Ramsar protected site, will also suffer if drilling plans in the park go ahead.
After so many years of conservation and money invested in the Park by conservation groups, the international community and the government, it is devastating to see an oil company pursue profit with total disrespect for both the animals and the local Congolese. WWF calls on the Congolese government to guarantee and to enforce the existing oil exploration ban in the park designated World Heritage Site and asks the UK-listed companies to respect the law and international convention and to abandon their harmful plans for exploration.
Company maps seen by international media indicate that SOCO intends to drill through much of the park in areas with some of the highest savannah biomass in the world.
SOCO Statement in response to WWF
SOCO’s agreement with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo includes requirements that it meets certain obligations associated with exploring for natural resources in the country. SOCO gives assurances that in meeting these obligations, it will exercise the highest standards of care including keeping disruption to the environment to a minimum.
SOCO has lengthy experience of operating in sensitive areas and has never had a situation that resulted in lasting damage to the environment. SOCO’s operations are designed with the objective that both the local population and the environment should actually benefit from its involvement.
One thought on “JAN 2011: Condemns oil exploration plans inside Virunga park”
SOCO International plc would like to emphasize that:
SOCO International plc (SOCO)’s involvement in ‘Block V’ is at the express invitation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Government.
SOCO aheres to all the DRC’s environmental preservation regulations,which include the continual use of environmental impact studies at each stage of any of our activities. We are also working closely with the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (‘ICCN’).
We would like to emphasise that we are at the preliminary phase of exploration for possible hydrocarbons and, even if successful, we are several years away from concluding our scientific research. At this stage, no drilling has been planned.
If it happens that preliminary research indicates that oil may exist under the Lake Edward, SOCO will use technology that offers the most environmentally friendly procedures. There is no reason for any flora or fauna to be impacted as a direct result of this phase of the Company’s activities.
We intend for our positive social impact on the ‘Block V’ surroundings to far outweigh any minor environmental impact that we may have. It is absolutely our intention to have a positive social impact onthe local communities’ lives, so we can truly say as an organisation that we have been a positive presence.
We have already been in dialogue with many local stakeholders to understand their needs and priorities.
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