Lake Edward: Companies and oil concessions
2 February 2012
Lake Edward or Edward Nyanza is the smallest of the African Great Lakes. It is located in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Lake Edward lies completely within the Virunga National Park (Congo) and the Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda) and does not have extensive human habitation on its shores, except at Ishango (DRC) in the north, home to a park ranger training facility. About two-thirds of its waters are in the DR Congo and one third in Uganda. Apart from Ishango, the main Congolese settlement in the south is Vitshumbi, while the Ugandan settlements are Mweya and Katwe in the north-east, near the crater lake of that name, which is the chief producer of salt for Uganda.
Lake Edward is home to many species of fish, including populations of Bagrus docmac, Sarotherodon niloticus, Sarotherodon leucostictus, and over 50 species of Haplochromis and other haplochromine species, of which only 8 are formally described. Fishing is an important activity among local residents. Fauna living on the banks of the lake – including chimpanzees, elephants, crocodiles, and lions – are protected by the national parks. The area is also home to many perennial and migratory bird species.
State of Development
Exploration – Airborne Gravity and Aeromagnetic Survey – Approval for aero-surveys, which involve flying over Lake Edward. Uncertainty about the second permit and its validity – goes against national and international Laws.
Threat: Drilling in Lake Edward, where most of the oil reserves are believed to be located, would bring a huge influx of workers and equipment as well as infrastructure development into the Park. This increases human pressure through illegal hunting, farming, fishing, and charcoal production. Contamination of the lake, which is a vital source of fresh water and protein for local human populations, as well as one of the sources of the great Nile River, would have a huge impact on food- and water security for millions of people. While the habitat of Virunga National Park’s 200 mountain gorillas does not currently fall within an oil concession, development in the park could negatively affect their security. In addition, development in the buffer zones outside the Park will likely have a direct effect on the World Heritage values of the Park. Increased confict, presense of armed groups
Companies and blocks
“Major important oil players such as the French Total and Italy’s ENI are eyeing blocks 3 and 4. Blocks 3, 4 and 5 absorb 85% of the Virunga National Park. Total promised the World Wildlife to restrict prospection to the Northern area of block 3, thus avoiding the Park. The French transnational claims to share WWF’s view that exploitation within the Virunga Park would violate Congolese law and be incompatible with its World Heritage status.
Meanwhile, ENI is still waiting for the award of bock 4 by Presidential Decree. The Italian company says it would not carry out exploration work within the Park. But all will depend from the balance of power and influence within the Congolese government between the Ministers of Environment and Hydrocarbons. ”
In March 2012, SOCO International, from Block 5 “announced plans to press ahead with oil exploration in Africa’s oldest National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). SOCO’s plans to undertake an aerial survey have already been made public. However, the permits being published today appear to give the green light to a broader range of exploration activities, including seismic surveys. ”