By Prosper HERI NGORORA, 9 December 2023.
On Friday December 8, the world celebrated World Climate Day, alongside the ongoing COP28 in Dubai,UAE.
On this occasion, 6 environmental and human rights defenders from DRC have reminded their opposition against oil exploitation in protected areas including lake Eduard, one of the fish-rich lakes.
“The auction of oil blocks is a threat against biodiversity and livelihoods of local communities and indigenous people” they said in a statement on Friday 8 December 2023.
Eduard lake is home to several species of fish including but not limited to Bagrus docmac; Sarothelodon niloticus and the list goes on and on.
Fishing is an important activity for local populations surrounding that lake bordering Uganda.
The lake area is also home to quite a number of resident and migratory birds.
They urged organizers and attendees to COP28 in Dubai to protect the mother earth against climate change and to protect Congolese forests and its peats lands.
On the other hand, they demand polluting countries to invest in green energy because according to these organizations “There is no planet B to replace the earth.”
Among those organizations, we can find Fédérations des pecheurs individuels du lac Eduard, alerte congolaise pour l’environnement et les droits de l’homme and other women, girls and guys organizations promoting the protection of environment and sustainable management of natural resources.
The organizations are using COP28 as a platform to advocate for censure of the destruction of biodiversity and pollution of region surrounding Virunga Park.
“We have found it’s important during this period of COP28 in Dubai, compagnies and wealthy countries and others attendees have to demand DRC to not sell the bloc V covering an important area in Virunga Park and Eduard Lake because they are respectively the habitat of the last mountain gorillas and means of subsistence of the fishing communities and the populations bordering the park” adds the statement.
In July 2022, the Congolese government announced the auction of 27 oil blocks.
Some of them are located in protected areas, such as in the oldest African park of Virunga and UNESCO world heritage site, in the East of DRC.
Virunga national park has 2077 plant species, 706 birds species; 196 mammals and 109 reptiles, 65 amphibians according to 2012 figures.
Despite all these oppositions, Congolese government has ensured that all measures have been taken in order to avoid environmental disasters during the oil exploitation.
“We protect the environment not only in relation to oil exploitation. Our resources are not there to just be contaminated, we will do it rationally and protect biodiversity,” said Eve Bazaiba, minister of environment in DRC in October 2022, during a Pre-cop 27 in Kinshasa.
But environmental activists have doubts and want only government to change its position and look for other ways as the country has many resources which have to be exploited and not only oil as for them.
“We know very well what is being done in the Congo. This exploitation is far from being professional and there will be a risk of the disappearance of certain species. The experience we learned from Nigeria following the exploitation of oil proves to us that there has been impoverishment of the soil, therefore agricultural production is low and economies are declining” reveals Placide NZILAMBA, civil society activist in Goma.
This story was produced with the support from MESHA and IDRC Eastern and Southern Office