See also:
» 16.12.2009 - DRC conservation initiative receives international recognition
» 20.10.2009 - DRC and Morocco elected to new forest financing programme
» 04.08.2009 - World bank signs first biocarbon agreement in DRC
» 19.01.2009 - Save Congo's remaining forests
» 27.07.2007 - DRC: Cry over gorilla executions
» 20.04.2005 - Congo's Virunga Park celebrates 80th anniversary
» 07.02.2005 - Landmark Congo Basin conservation treaty signed
» 03.02.2005 - Brazzaville summit addresses Congo Basin's forests

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Congo Kinshasa
Environment - Nature | Economy - Development

Congo halts oil exploration in Virunga Park

Mountain gorilla baby in the Virunga Massif

© IGCP/afrol News
afrol News, 17 March
- The government of Congo Kinshasa (DRC) has suspended the highly controversial oil exploration programme in the unique Virunga National Park, a World Heritage Site.

The Kinshasa Environment Ministry issued a statement today declaring the DRC government would suspend any activities related to oil exploration in Virunga until the potential impact of such a project is thoroughly assessed.

The decision to give UK-based companies SOCO and Dominion oil drilling rights in the world-famous national park had caused international outrage among environmentalists. Virunga is Africa's oldest national park, home to mountain gorillas and on UNESCO's prestigious World Heritage list.

Congolese Minister José Endundo said he would not allow the oil companies to carry out any work within the park for now and said his government would initiate a thorough and transparent Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to decide whether such a project could be considered in one of the world's most precious and fragile nature parks.

The news from Kinshasa today was received with relief and joy by environmentalist groups all over the world. "We applaud the Environment Ministry for recognizing the value in preserving natural resources in Virunga National Park, reflecting their commitment to long-term prosperity over the short-term profits of oil companies," commented Allard

Virunga National Park

© Unesco/afrol News
Blom, Director WWF's Congo programme.

"What we hope to see next is a firm declaration guaranteeing there will be no exploration in this pristine park now or in the future," Mr Blom added. "Allowing oil exploration in this iconic park would set an extremely dangerous precedent that even the most precious places on earth are open for oil and gas development."

WWF had been shocked when finding that SOCO and Dominion were to drill for oil in the large parts of the unique park. Government permission had been given despite warnings by the Kinshasa Environment Ministry, rejecting the companies' environmental impact assessment as "premature and superficial."

WWF now calls on the Congolese government to not only suspend the oil drilling, but "guarantee there will be no oil exploration in the park" and asks the two UK companies "to respect the law and abandon the harmful exploration plans" altogether.

Virunga National Park is Africa's first-ever national park, a World Heritage Site, and is renowned for its breathtaking untouched landscapes and extremely high biodiversity - including the world famous mountain gorillas, as well as important populations of elephant, chimpanzee and hippo.

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