Oil exploration forms a serious threat to the oldest and most precious nature reserve in Africa, Virunga, and to the communities that depend upon its resources. Local communities, local conservationists and human rights organizations oppose the search for oil and defend the right of these local populations to a healthy environment and sustainable development option.
The importance of the park and its impact on communities is not something that you can only consider from the present. We are dealing with a post conflict situation; we are also witnessing a shift in the management of protected areas and most certainly in Virunga. Protected areas in DRC have had also their own share of conflicts and violations. In the past Virunga national park management has not always supported the fulfillment of basic rights in North Kivu. The so-called ‘fortress’ model of protected area management, that focused on keeping people out, sometimes employing repressive law enforcement methods to do so, contributed to increasing conflicts between local communities and park rangers in the past. This has changed. The current park management is making real efforts to break with the past. He has won the respect of local leaders, key civil society and they are working together for the future and wellbeing of the ecosystem /local population of eastern DRC.
In order for Virunga to survive we need to strengthen our efforts in making this connection PARK-PEOPLE stronger, always taking into account local considerations in any development plans.