A local environmental activist Godfrey Mfiti is persuading government to cancel oil exploration in Lake Malawi, saying it is categorised as a World Heritage site which could seriously dent the country’s image in environmental conservation.
“Oil exploration in Lake Malawi must be differred. It must be stopped. We need tools such as rules and regulations, policy framework and mechanism to monitor the oil drilling processes,” Mfiti told Nyasa Times.
“Our colleagues in other African Great Lakes ensure compliance on environmental concerns. I request a review of the whole oil process. Malawi must do an economic evaluation of the Lake Malawi. This will help to measure the cost and benefits. The lake has potential in other areas of tourism, agriculture and fisheries worth billions without negative environmental impact,” he added.
Mfiti said Malawi should not “exploit” its lake.
“Oil exploration is not a Tomato business. We need proper regulations. Now it’s like playing a game of soccer without rules and then introduce them later. Our political leadership needs sanity and patience,” said Mfiti.
Mfiti, who also heads a non-governmental organization called the Institute of Sustainable Development (ISD), also said Malawi breached International conventions and its own Parliamentary Acts on the oil exploration deal.
“By embarking in oil exploration on a World Heritage site, Malawi breached the convention. The process is conflicting with the 1972 World Heritage convention which Malawi is a signatory and ratified in 1994,” said Mfiti adding that ‘this also contravenes the Act which was enacted by Malawi Parliament.’
“Our main interest is the future because bio-diversity is irreplaceable; we need justice to be done. We cannot get it anywhere else, and the heritage is only found in Malawi. We have many examples where oil exploration has affected lives such as in Nigeria and other parts of the world where oil exploration has affected lives of people,” he said.
And the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has in its report warned Malawi Government against allowing foreign oil companies from conducting oil exploration on a part of Lake Malawi.
The UN body wants government to stay away from lies on the southern tip of Lake Malawi—the world’s third largest fresh water lake-and is located within the Lake Malawi National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Last November, government announced it was suspending the exploration exercise and a decision is yet to be made on cancellation and renegotiation of production sharing agreements (PSAs) with companies licensed to explore oil and gas. This follows a legal opinion from the Attorney General (AG) that faulted the manner some deals were awarded.
Under the Petroleum Regulations Act, the country is divided into six blocks for the exploration of oil.
Block one was awarded to Sac Oil Holdings Limited of South Africa whereas block two and three were awarded to British firm Surestream Petroleum in 2011, but Hamra Oil Holdings in 2011 acquired a 51 percent stake in the Surestream licences. Blocks four and five were awarded to Rakgas in 2013 whereas the sixth block went to Pacific Oil.
According to UNESCO report, it was recommended that Surestream and RAKGAS, as holders of oil exploration concessions in parts of Lake Malawi are encouraged to publicly subscribe to the commitment already made by industry leaders Shell and Total, which is not to undertake any exploration and/or exploitation of oil and gas inside World Heritage properties.
Mfiti says Malawi has been given the deadline of the 31st November, 2015 in order to respond to the UNESCO Report. As such, the department of Culture, Wildlife, Tourism and Parks has proceeded to request that the government withdraw the oil exploration process.
Nyasa Times understands that, Malawi government has cancelled blocks four and five and is ready to implement some recommendations by the UN agency on the matter.
Lake Malawi is one of the deepest lakes in the world and contains a larger number of fish species than any other lake.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :