The Survival of Communities in Virunga National Park is Non-Negotiable: Please make a better choice
23 March 2015
Open Letter to His Excellency Mr. Prime Minister and Head of Government, Democratic Republic of Congo
The civil society organizations working for the promotion and protection of the Environment and Human Rights in North Kivu (CREDDHO, FECOPEILE, IDPE, SOPR and CREF Network), in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, are grateful for the efforts that the Government is making for the restoration of peace in the North Kivu Province, and the recent launch of the operations against the FDLR “Sokola 2” which are currently being carried out.
These organizations believe that the dismantling of this group will have positive effects on the security and stability of the area, the wildlife of Virunga National Park, including Lake Edward. This will impact positively on the development potential of eco-tourism and will improve the living conditions of local populations; it will also allow the operationalization of another model of development based on sustainable exploitation of natural resources in the area.
Indeed, it was with great surprise that we learned in the press of March 14th, 2015, the Congolese Government’s position with regard of Virunga and intention its of finding an agreement with UNESCO to exploit oil within the actual perimeters of the park.
Excellency the Prime Minister, the importance of Virunga National Park with Lake Edward at his center, is well established:
- We recall that the communities that depend on Lake Edward’s resources are estimated at about 309,864 inhabitants in and around Virunga, 65,100 members of these communities represent 10,850 fishing households. They have been raising serious concerns about the exploitation of oil in this region and have denounced the “military” methods used by the bearer of this project during its exploration activities. To date, these concerns have not found answers!
- In the year 2015 when the world is preparing for the COP 21 in Paris, we reiterate that the natural wealth of the DRC and Virunga National Park, provides people and the whole country with fresh water, food and contributes to the fight against climate change. All this has a great potential to stimulate sustainable economic development, if peace and good governance follow. Efforts have already been initiated where sustainable development and conservation combine successfully as within the ViNP program “Virunga Alliance“. This program is based on the optimization of sustainable energy potential with the generation of local employment in some key sectors; this represents in the short and medium term an important economic opportunity for the emergence of DRC.
Therefore, the signatory organizations of this open letter call once again upon the Congolese Government to more responsibility and to consider the possible negative impacts that oil exploitation will have on the livelihoods of local communities. During the last COP 18 in 2012 at Doha, the DRC lobbied for its national strategic green development plan including REDD+ and presented a 2035 timeline to achieve 17% coverage of protected areas, Virunga mational park is part of this target, as well a World Heritage site. We must all ensure that the economic choices and options taken today will benefit future generations.
Finally, we believe that protecting Lake Edward and the integrity of Virunga National Park equals protecting the rights of all our people and helping dissuade possible predatory practices around natural resources. In addition, investing in sustainable resource exploitation such as tourism, fisheries, and sustainable energy is an investment in the future, in the long-term economic stability of the country. This model will contribute to sustainable conflict transformation through social peace, something that oil exploitation cannot. The case of the province of Bas-Congo, where oil production dates since more than 50 years, has not yet proven any positive and sustainable changes at the level of local development. This is clearly exemplified in the 2012-2013 parliamentary investigation on this respect, when consulting this report we can avoid mistakes of the past.
Excellence, the current available data on Lake Edward are eloquent: the present estimated total captured fish in Lake Edward is approximately 17.700 tons per year, with +/- 12.500 tons/year for local consumption and 5.200 tons being commercialized. The total catch in the lake represents a total a value between the 30 to 35 million of US Dollars annually.
Excellence, lets promote together the green development and investment in DRC; oil can be found across the country and outside protected areas. We urge you to take a 25-year moratorium on decisions taken in relation to oil exploitation in high biodiversity and rich areas, all this for the stability and credibility of the DRC.
DRC: Let’s go to the COP 21 with a hydrocarbon law that respects protected areas.
Goma, March 23, 2015.
For organizations of civil society working for the promotion and protection of the environment and human rights in North Kivu.
Noms, post noms et organisation Noms, post noms et organisation
1. Bantu LUKAMBO (IDPE)
2. Eddy K. SIWAYITIRA (SOPR)
3. Isaac M. WIKEREVOLO (Réseau CREF)
4. Floribert MASANI (Réseau CREF) 5. François BILOKO (Réseau CREF)
6. Alphonse VALIVAMBENE (Réseau CREF)
7. Jules MBOKANI (CREDDHO)
8. Josué KAMBASU MUKURA (FECOPEILE)