Message from Bantu Lukambo Managing Director & CEO at IDPE(Innovation for the Development and Protection of Environment) in communication with civil society living in and around Block V near Lake Edward in the Congo:
On March 23 & 24 a meeting/workshop(atelier de reflexion) was held on the issue of oil development(exploration & exploitation) in Bloc 5 in the Albertin Rift by SOCO. The workshop took place in Vitshumbi, Ruthsuru, North Kivu.
The workshop was attended by local communities who live in and outside the Park, in the area of Block 5, local authorities and by CSO’s who fight to protect the environment, as well as local human rights.
9 NGOs took part:
Local communities were represented by fishing committees who are fishing on Lake Edward, and they also represented people who’s livelihoods are dependent upon the local natural resources that are prevalent in Block 5.
Concerning authorities, present were the Admin Chief de Vitshumbi, and several local chiefs(autorités coutumieres).
Civil society was represented by religious leaders, women, intellectuals and other community leadership that are mutually concerned about the environmental impacts pertaining to the issue.
In regard to the contract signed by SOCO with the DRC government, local communities are opposed to ANY and ALL forms of oil development(exploration and exploitation) in or on the outskirts of Virunga National Park or on Lake Edward.
The activities of SOCO are unchallenged in areas outside the Park, IF environmental national and international laws/regulations are respected and upheld. Also, only if all stakeholders(including local communities) can participate in these oil activities.
Referring to Congolese law; the local communities present/foresee the following problems occurring when oil development proceeds:
1. All forms of pollution that are generally associated with any oil exploratory procedures will affect the supply of food and other resources of the region.
2. Extensive water pollution of Lake Edward will occur and this will be devastating to the region. The severe desctrutive consequences will affect countless people and precious wildlife, as well as the environment, which is essential to our children’s future.
3. There will be conflict over water because the river Nile ends in Lake Edward.
We are aware of the consequences of natural resource exploitation. They are the basis of our fragile government and the conflicts in the eastern DRC. Therefore, we want the DRC government to take its responsibility to the people most seriously.
We also ask the DRC government to uphold its position “vis-a-vis” the international community in the light of all the agreements/engagements the government has with the international Community:
– UNESCO declaration 1972
– (And lastly they refer to the Kinshasa Declaration of January 2011 between UNESCO and the government.
1) To DRC government.
– Respect the national and international laws that direct the environment(al) issues.
– Revise the contract signed between the DRC government and SOCO for the exploration/exploitation in Block V, and let local communities participate in this revision process.
– Inform the local community on the content of the contract(production contract?).
2) To SOCO
– Respect international and national environmental standards in the extractive sector/industries.
– Make available asap a full social and environmental impact study, on the basis of FPIC.
– Take into account specific needs of local communities and the surrounding environment, including wildlife impact.
3) To international community
– Demand from DRC government to respect its international HR and environmental commitments made, in particular to protect/safeguard the WHS.
– Assist and support the Congolese civil society in their lobby and advocacy work to tackle/address the oil issues in the DRC.
4) To civil society actors
– Establish an exchange information and experiences between communities already being affected by oil development and the ones who are potentially being affected.
– Establish/promote synergy between all actors who work on the problems related to oil development
5) To local communities:
– Prevent division of interest between local communities who are all affected by the oil issue.
– Support dialogue between communities.
– Defend national and international agreed upon HR law.
Thank you for taking the time to read and share this message.
Bantu Lukambo Managing Director & CEO at IDPE(Innovation for the Development and Protection of Environment)