Africa’s oldest national park under new threat
Activists say, it may only be a matter of weeks before Uganda issues oil licence in Lake Edward, effectively opening up Virunga by the back door.
According to Global Witness, on the 26th of February seven companies submitted bids to the Ugandan government in a licensing round which includes the Ngaji oil block which covers half of Lake Edward and large parts of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and forms part of the same continuous ecosystem as the Virunga World Heritage site. A Government spokesperson was reported in the Ugandan media as saying that none of the companies submitted bids for Ngaji , but the government still plans to issue a license for this area!
The Greater Virunga Landscape is one of the most bio-diverse areas on earth and home to Africa’s most iconic and endangered species like hippos, elephants and some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Lake Edward is a vital source of food for over 200,000 people and its waters feed the Nile and Congo rivers. It is a 7800 square km National Park that stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Rwanda and Uganda.
Any oil activities in this area could lead to significant damage to the lake, the broader ecosystem and the people and animals that depend on it. Global Witness has been campaigning for over four years to prevent oil drilling in Lake Edward and the surrounding ecosystem.
We are calling on UNESCO and the governments of DRC and Uganda to negotiate a no-go area for extractives around Lake Edward.
The park’s future is threatened since oil has been discovered, and the Congolese government has already awarded three concessions for oil exploration, which cover 85% of the park. Oil companies contract allows them access to a big part of Virunga National Park threatening the park with disruptive seismic tests, forest clearing, underground drilling and the laying of oil pipelines.
A 2014 award winning film produced by Leonardo Dicaprio highlights the plight of the national park while numerous campaigns have kept the pressure on states and companies to save Africa’s oldest park.
Featured image: Courtesy-Save Virunga