Oil exploitation in Virunga’s block V is similar to the final of an important soccer game between the government with its petroleum allies, and the local communities that depend on inexhaustible natural resources and their supporters, civil society organizations working on the protection of the environment.
Both teams have been trained to use the legal instruments that are at their disposal and strengthens their tactics. The first team composed by the government, says they have all rights because of a decree authorizing the exploration and exploitation of oil in Block V, an area that covers a major part of Virunga National Park including Lake Edward. The second team led by the communities considers that oil exploration without risks does not exist. Even the smallest pollution would have ecological consequences on the biodiversity of the lake; which is home of several species of fish, hippopotamus, many other reptiles and sedentary and migratory birds…. But most of all it represents an important freshwater reservoir with the Semliki to Ishango, pollution of these waters could cause an ever bigger catastrophe, contaminating the waters of the source of the White Nile till Egypt. That is why these organizations rely on the new Nature Conservation Law that came into act on February 2014 in DRC prohibiting any oil activity in a protected areas; add to this, a principle such as FPIC (of Free – Prior – Informed – Consent) demonstrating that the local community that depends on a resource have the right and should agree prior the implementation of a project that can have a destructive/negative impact on their livelihoods and way of life.
A final, in any sport, requires a great amount of trainings and thinking. Therefore maybe in order to destabilize their opponents and knowing what stipulates the law, the first team, is trying to declassify part of the Park in order to accommodate oil exploration; and yet the other team is trying to build a strong defense and is fighting for the economic and social importance that represents the park; encouraging the government to think about sustainable economic alternatives that can be generated from Virunga national park’s healthy ecosystems, in this case tourism, sustainable energy with Mutwanga’s hydroelectric facilities with 4 MW and that of Rutshuru – Mantebe with 13MW, food security with the fishing activities in Lake Edward which alone occupies more than 7.000 fishermen besides those involved in the fishing industry and generates more than 30 million US dollars for the survival of over 65,000 people living in and around Lake Edward …
The match is at halftime, we call on all those who read us and especially the Government of the DRC to properly reflect on the economic, social, touristic, ecological and aesthetic values of Virunga National Park, oldest National park in Africa park and World Heritage site considered one of the 8 wonders of the world and which celebrated its 90 years of existence in April 2015.
Our team is asking the government to respect the Law for the Conservation of Nature of February 2014 and to renounce to any initiative aimed at declassifying part or the integrality of Virunga National Park for the exploitation of oil in the Lake Edward, our life depends on it.
Listen to the opinion of the population of Vitshumbi.
In which team are you? Oil or local communities?
Silvain, fisherman of Lake Edward