DRC Civil Society united to protect Virunga and Salonga National park. These two UNESCO World Heritage Natural Sites represent an outstanding universal value and any project of partial disaffection could be considered as an inhuman act intentionally causing great suffering to the thousands of local communities and indigenous peoples who depend on these exceptional values for their survival as well as to the whole of humanity, present and future generations.
We, environmental and human rights organizations of the Civil Society of North Kivu and at the national level, come respectfully to your personality to express our views on the above mentioned subject.
Indeed, Excellency the Minister, we are concerned by the contents of your notes N ° M-HYD / ANM / PNI / hnb / 0382 / CAB / MIN / 2018 and N ° M-HYD / ANM / PNI / hnb / 0383 / CAB / MIN / 2018 of March 2018 projecting to redraw the boundaries of the Salonga and Virunga National Parks respectively part of Virunga National Park covering the oil blocks IV and V and part of Salonga National Park of covering blocks I and II, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites and RAMSAR sites.
These two UNESCO World Heritage natural sites have been named and are courageously conserved by your public services because of their importance to the common heritage of humanity. They represent an outstanding universal value and any project of partial disaffection could be considered as an inhuman act intentionally causing great suffering to the thousands of local communities and indigenous peoples who depend on these exceptional values for their survivalas well as to the whole of humanity, present and future generations.
Your Excellency, Minister,
With regard to Virunga National Park, it was our surprise to see that in your notes you underestimate the size of Block V, we do not know if it is by omission or negligence. While in the decree No.013 / M-HYD / AMTC / CAB / MIN / 2013 of 22 July 2013, Article 1states that “the open V block exploration in the Albertine Graben covers an area of 7.180,3 km² » of which 3.897 km2 within Virunga National Park, and the rest in fields of surrounding communities. On the other hand, in your note N°M-HYD / ANM / PNI / hnb / 0382 / CAB / MIN / 2018, you speak rather of 2.767,5 Km2 as overall area of Block V, which for us augurs bad intentions.
As you know, Blocks V and IV cover the whole of Lake Edward , more than 90 thousand households of fishermen depend on the lake for their livelihoods and 6 millions of the populations living inside the province of North Kivu. A nother inaccuracy in the same note addressed to the government stresses that block IV is located in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, which is a serious mistake and inaccuracy, because it is rather Block III which straddles the provinces of North Kivu, in the extreme North of Virunga National Park and South of Irumu in Ituri Province. In late 2015, for your recall, the French giant TOTAL gave up oil drilling in the southern part of Block III located in the Park, to spare this World Heritage site from the irreversible consequence of oil extraction and production, while SOCO International gave up its oil exploitation license in block V.
Admittedly, your rating still gives a right to another company that would have recovered the staff of SOCO. Thus, to decommission parts of blocks V and IV would involve the total decommissioning of Virunga National Park because the area of oil interest covered by these blocks added to block III already encompasses more than 80 percent of the surface area of Virunga National Park. This oil development project in both blocks will have irreversible consequences not only on the natural ecosystems of the Virunga Landscape and their resources but also on the livelihoods of local communities.
By way of illustration, the sad experience of Nigerian Nigerians (Ogoni Land) in the face of the negative consequences of the exploitation of oil and many other oil-producing regions in the world should be elements to be taken into consideration by the Congolese Government, while formulating its economic model that wants to be responsible, for the country and its population. The results of the seismic tests carried out by the British company SOCO International in block V were officially received at the end of 2015 by the Congolese Government.
However, In our opinion, these results, which are used as a marketing tool and the basis of this interest of the Congolese Government for the Virunga oil, are tainted with several human rights violations. his is among others corruption, intimidation, torture and murder of activists, misappropriation of funds for local communities as compensation and destruction of wild species in Virunga National Park through poisoning, violation of national and international laws relating to nature conservation. We believe that for its reputation, the Congolese Government should not use such data, nor should it encourage investments and / or finance activities that are harmful to the environment and have a negative impact on protected areas and areas of great importance for biodiversity and humanity.
In addition, Mr. Minister, DR Congo is bound by the strict respect of international legal texts ratified in the field of nature conservation which, according to Article 215 of the Constitution, have a prevalence on national laws, without forgetting the COP21 that promotes equitable energy transition; the sovereignty of the country is not synonymous with violation of the legal texts.
From the ecological point of view, it should be remembered that Block V and IV are traversed by an important hydrographic network which constitutes a vital part of the Nile source and on which the countries of North Africa depend and which confers DR-Congo a geostrategic position without measure from the environmental point of view and a model of development and green diplomacy. The pollution of the waters of the RUTSHURU River, Lake EDWARD and the SEMLIKI River, following the exploitation of oil could be at the origin of a water war in this already unstable region, and entail irreversible migration movements, provoking cross-border and geopolitical conflicts comparable to those of Lake Chad.
In this period of fight against global warming, several countries around the world are mobilizing on the production and use of clean and renewable energy, and especially that DR-Congo is full of several alternative resources and that could boost the country’s sustainable economy for the benefit of the rural populations who depend on agriculture and fishing rather than pushing for oil exploitation.
Excellency the Minister, In view of the above, we ask you, to:
- Give up the project to declassify parts of Virunga and Salonga national parks to explore for oil in block IV and Bloc V of Virunga National Park and Block I and II of SALONGA National park, and to give the chance to the promotion of sustainable development through ecotourism;
- Respect the status of established protected areas, including international designations, and maintain all categories of protected areas: they must not be downgraded or modified to facilitate activities and developments that are harmful to the environment;
- Remind you that Salonga is the part that holds the largest part of the Congo Basin forest and is the second largest in the world;
- Preserve the integrity of the Virunga and Salonga Parks as two of of the five Unesco World Heritage Sites of DR Congo;
- Prevent serious environmental crimes against humanity that could be prosecuted under the Rome Statute of the ICC;
- Encourage investments and economic developments that respect the full range of protected areas and the national and international legal frameworks in force.
Our patriotic feelings.
For civil society associations for the defense of the environment and human rights in North Kivu and at the national level: