Virunga: Oil Exploitation, A Risk for Local Communities

By Esther Nsapu, correspondent in Eastern DRC

In a consortium in Goma, seven environmental civil society organizations from the North Kivu province called “Alliance for Green Livelihoods” (GLA) are protesting against the proposal of the Minister of Hydrocarbons, to decommission some of the Virunga and Salonga National Parks to conduct oil exploration and exploitation. The area of ​​oil interest concerns 172,075 hectares of Virunga or 21.5% of the total area of ​​the park classified World Heritage by Unesco.

These environmental organizations say:

“No, to any initiative to decommission Virunga and Salonga National Parks or any of their part to exploit oil to the detriment of humanity and local communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.

From July to August 2018, this consortium managed to collect 23.062 signatures on all the riparian zones of Virunga National Park, including the territories of Lubero, Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, Beni, Masisi and the city of Goma in Northern Province. -Kivu.

On Monday, September 17, the environmental civil society organizations of North Kivu province handed over a petition to the President of the Republic asking him to translate his commitment to protect nature  by even stronger acts, according to the prescribed national and international legal instruments in  nature conservation.

To this end, these environmental organizations call for the immediate suspension of this project, while denouncing the devastating consequences for the environment and the economic life of the local populations that such a decision would have.

According to Sylvain Nganduli, a fisherman on Lake Edward,:

“Lake Edward is the provider of our livelihood and employment. As a fisherman, I have never sent a request to a company to have a job because fishing is my only source of income. Fishing feeds my family and helps me to school my children. Lake Edward currently has 700 canoes. That makes 4,900 fishermen live, which represents nearly 35,000 people. These people may be negatively impacted by this project. “

He also adds that the exploitation and exploration of oil in national parks are incompatible with the UNESCO World Heritage status of these parks. It is also incompatible with the goal of sustainable and equitable development pursued by the DRC.

According to Célestin Kazi of the Center for Research on the Environment, Democracy and Human Rights (CREDDHO), Virunga National Park is currently occupied by several armed groups who commit several human rights violations. against the peaceful local populations. This project of exploiting oil in the park will be a threat for the populations because the armed groups will multiply and the zone will be more conflictual.

The people living around these protected areas want the DRC government to meet its legal commitments on nature conservation. Indeed, they derive most of their livelihood from these protected areas. Thus, they ask the Government to respect their will by canceling any project relating to the exploitation and the exploration of oil in the protected areas of Virunga and Salonga.

Source: La Libre Afrique