The WWF last week released a report that argued Africa’s oldest national park, which the Democratic Republic of Congo has opened up for oil exploration, could generate US$1.1 billion per year if developed sustainably, rather than being given over to potentially damaging oil extraction.
Virunga National Park, which sits in the DRC and on the borders of Uganda and Rwanda, is home to a volcano, and extensive wildlife, including 200 mountain gorillas that are in danger of extinction. The WWF said in a report prepared by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, an independent consulting firm, that the park has the potential to provide nearly 45,000 permanent jobs through tourism, the fishery industry, and investments in hydropower.
Soco International, a UK oil company, and Total, a French one, have oil blocs that overlap with Virunga, and although Total has committed not to drill in the park, Soco has yet to make the same promises. The report says that exploitation of oil concessions, which have been allocated across 85 percent of the World Heritage site, could bring pollution, cause instability and cost people their jobs.
The report continues: “Virunga represents a valuable assets to the DRC and contributes to Africa’s heritage as the oldest and most biodiverse park on the continent. Plans to explore for oil and exploit oil reserves put Virunga’s value at risk.”
“Oil extraction here could have devastating consequences for local communities that rely on Virunga for fish, drinking waters and their other needs,” Raymond Lumbuename, Congo country director for WWF, added, according to Bloomberg.
Congo is presently conducting a strategic assessment of the 1.98 million acre park, which is being funded by the EU. After the report is completed, the Congolese government will have all the necessary instruments to decide whether it will “privilege” conservation or not, according to environmental minister Bavon N’sa Mputu. Soco will still need to get approval from the government for an exploitation permit.
Virunga has faced years of poaching, the arrival of refugees from the Rwandan genocide, and a series of internal conflict including the Kivu War in which rebel forces took over the site’s head office. The M23 rebel group, which has fought with Congo’s national army for more than a year in North Kivu province, controls territory that includes part of the park.
- Africa’s Oldest National Park may be Put at Risk by Oil Exploration (natureworldnews.com)
- ‘Oil threat’ to Africa’s oldest park (bbc.co.uk)
- Oil Companies Knocking On The Door of Africa’s Oldest Park (thinkprogress.org)
- WWF: Oil Exploration Threatens Africa’s Billion Dollar World Heritage Site (energypotentials.wordpress.com)
- Congo’s rare mountain gorillas could become victims of oil exploration (theguardian.com)
- Virunga oil exploration warning (independent.ie)
- ‘Oil threat’ to DR Congo’s Virunga National Park (africareview.com)