DR Congo: Oil company threatens gorilla forest
Gorilla family in Virunga National ParkThe dense montane rainforest in the Virunga National Park is one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered mountain gorillas. Virunga is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is the oldest national park in Africa. The park, about twice the size of Rhode Island, and along the shores of Lake Edward, was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. In addition to the gorillas, it is home to other endangered species. Now the national park, the gorillas and the people living along the lake face an existential threat.In late 2011, the UK-based oil company SOCO was granted exploitation rights for oil blocks in the eastern part of the Congo. Up until then, an exploitation moratorium had been in place for the country’s sensitive rainforest regions. Sixty percent of Block 5 covered by SOCO fall within the borders of Virunga. As Ephrem Balole of the park administration said: “The company has received a permission to start exploration in the park by presidential decree. However, law prohibits the exploitation of natural resources within the park.”The park administration and the local population have joined forces in an attempt to prevent the drilling, which would destroy large parts of the Virunga rainforest and also threaten Lake Edward. The lake provides the livelihood of many people in the region. The UNESCO has issued a sharply worded note of protest to the Congolese government, declaring the oil drilling to be in violation of international law. The EU is providing funding for Virunga, but to date, only a small group of members of the European Parliament has issued a resolution against the drilling activities planned in the park.Please write to the responsible institutions and demand the preservation of Virunga National Park.
To: The Board of Directors, SOCO International plc, The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The European Commission, Directorate-General for Communication
Start of campaign: Dec 21, 2012
Source: Rainforest Rescue
4 thoughts on “Rainforest Rescue: SOCO International PLC plans to drill for oil in Virunga National Park – TAKE ACTION”
In reference to the above post, we would like to clarify the following:
SOCO has committed that it will never seek to have operations in the Mountain Gorilla habitat, the Virunga Volcanoes or the Virunga equatorial rainforest.
The extent of SOCO’s current involvement is limited to ‘Block V’, which is located in the southern Albertine Graben in Eastern DRC adjacent to the border with Uganda and includes a section of the Virunga National Park, and an area of lowland savannah south of Lake Edward.
It is emphasised that Block V is not located within the mountainous Mikeno Sector, home to the famous Mountain Gorillas. This has been subject to much inaccurate media speculation.
Although Block V does encompass an area of the Virunga National Park, this area comprises mostly lowland savannah around Lake Edward and the lake itself.
It is important to note the context for SOCO’s presence in Eastern DRC which is explained below:
• SOCO’s involvement in Block V is at the express invitation of the DRC formalised through a Production Sharing Contract signed in 2006 and ratified by Presidential Decree in 2010 for the purposes of exploration and production of hydrocarbons.
• SOCO currently have a contractual commitment with the DRC to assess the hydrocarbon potential of Block V. The DRC has determined that our activities are legal according to their own legislation. If the DRC government decides that our involvement in Block V is no longer legal then SOCO will, of course, discontinue all activities.
• It is emphasised that no drilling in the Virunga National Park has been planned, or is even warranted at this stage. As part of the scientific studies, SOCO will conduct an aerial survey which involves a helicopter flying over Lake Edward and the adjacent area of lowland savannah to gather magnetic and gravity information. The aerial survey is the only exploration activity planned at this time.
• In addition, SOCO would like to add that it has carried out an extensive communications campaign to help familiarise local communities with our proposed activities. The feedback from this engagement has been that the vast majority welcome us as a potential catalyst for positive change.
• SOCO cares about the environment and the local communities, and we are of the conviction that our activities will provide an economic stimulus in the region for the communities’ livelihood, and accordingly this will help to address the pervasive poverty that is currently one of the primary threats to conservation.
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