World Heritage centre warns Malawi over oil exploration: Mfiti says Lake Malawi should be protected

The World Heritage Center  has asked Malawi government to withdraw oil exploration in Lake Malawi, protesting  the decision to grant an exploration concession at a world heritage site, the Lake Malawi National Park.

Environmental activist Mfiti (right) interviews fisherman along Lake Malawi on the prospects of oild drilling

Environmental activist Mfiti (right) interviews fisherman along Lake Malawi on the prospects of oild drilling

In a letter dated July 29, 2016 sent through Malawi Charge de affairs in Brussles, Belgium Joseph Chiteyeye, the Director of World Heritage Center Machtild Rossler reiterated concerns over oil exploration activities on Lake Malawi National Park which is a world heritage site.

The letter is copied to  UN through its agency UNESCO and demanded government to cancel the contract and asked Malawi to re-affirm its commitment to preserve the heritage site.

Malawi which ranks lowly in most human development and economic  indicators, eyes the oil, gas and mining sector as an alternative to the dying green gold, tobacco—the major forex earner.

Environmental rights cctivist Godfrey Mfiti Director of Institute of Sustainable Development (ISD) said  his organisation  believe  that  “Lake Malawi National Park has to be protected and the entire oil exploration activities in Lake Malawi be withdrawn.”

Mfiti told Nyasa Times: “The Conservation efforts of Lake Malawi National Park cannot be compatible with oil exploration as it threatens the Outstanding Universal Values of Lake Malawi.

“ It is very clear from the World Heritage Convention that Lake Malawi is bound to lose its source of cichlids. The Lake boast about over a thousand cichlids where three hundred are unique to Malawi. Malawian ordinary citizens will be great losers should the oil exploration continue since this is a source of protein for many Malawians in rural and urban areas.”

Malawi government is a signatory to the World Heritage Convention which it ratified in 1984.It agreed to ensure Lake Malawi National Park is protected as a world heritage site.

According to activist Mfiti, the oil exploration will also affect the quality of drinking water from the lake at a time when the country is struggling to provide drinking water to its citizenry in major cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe.

At the same time the rural communities in  most district of Malawi lack safe and clean drinking water.

Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bright Msaka, asked for time before he comments on the matter.

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8 thoughts on “World Heritage centre warns Malawi over oil exploration: Mfiti says Lake Malawi should be protected”

  1. Jim Bobo says:

    Yes. Don’t do the oil exploration. IT WILL DAMAGE THE ECOLOGY, ENVIRONMENT, FISHING ECONOMY, LIVELIHOODS, HEALTH AND FOOD&NUTRITION SOURCE OF LOCAL PEOPLE OF MALAWI, REDUCE CLEAN DRINKING WATER SUPPLY AND INTRODUCE THE RISK OF MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL SAFETY HAZARDS. Wake up, you greedy corporations and leave us alone!

  2. mchisala says:

    Chikutubwe, you have displayed so much ignorance in the few seconds that it took you to write this comment that you would require a million shool hours to begin grasping the issues at stake with oil & gas exploitation and exploration on Lake Malawi. Nigeria has been exploiting its oil & gas resources since 1965 but have very little to show for it other than the massive environmental degradation in-spite of engaging some of the more environmentally conscious oil companies while you have ‘no-bodies’ to explore & exploit resources on a fresh-water lake (very unheard-of!)!.

  3. CHIKUTUMBWE says:

    MFITI DOES NOT SEEM TO KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT. FOR RECORDS PURPOSES, CICHLID FISHES ARE NOT EDIBLE. THEY ARE SO TASTELESS. SO IT IS MISLEADING TO SAY PEOPLE WILL BE DEPRIVED OF PROTEINS.

    SECONDLY, DONORS INCLUDING THE UN AREWITHHOLDING THE AID AND MALAWI HAS TO FEND ITSELF. SO IF OIL CAN BRING THAT LIFELINE, MALAWI CAN VENTURE INTO THAT BUSINESS.

    THRIDLY, MOST OIL DEPOSITS ARE FAR IN THE NORTHERN PART OF MALAWI WHILE THE LAKE MALAWI NATIONAL PARK IS IN THE SOUTH. SO OIL EXPLORATION/DRILLING AND FISH CONSERVATION CAN GO TOGETHER.
    FOURTHLY, ALTHOUGH MALAWI SIGNED THE CONVENTION TO PROTECT THE LAKE, IT IS ENTIRELY UP TO THE COUNTRY TO MAKE A COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS WITH REGARD TO EITHER TO CONSERVE FISH OR GO FOR OIL, ASSUMING THE TWO CAN NOT GO HAND-IN-HAND. MFITI DOES NOT OWN THE LAKE EITHER.

    1. nsomba says:

      Cichlid fishes ARE EDIBLE!!!! Chambo is a cichlid fish, so are Utaka and ndunduma and Ncheni. We eat cichlids. I guess your remarks refer to Mbuna, the rock-dwelling colourful fishes normally popular in aquarium trade. Even then, up in the north esp. in Nkhata Bay some eat mbuna. Check your facts buddy.

    2. Francis says:

      Sir have you messed Niger delta is?

    3. Rashid says:

      Chikutunbwe. I agree, the fears are a bit alarmist. One fact is that oil cannot be confirmed to exist there before drilling takes place. And before the drilling a lot of advance studies have to be undertaken (seismic survey etc) and these largely have no effect on the lake or land. So these could be allowed to commence after Environmental impact assessements. Since the blocks are on and offshore ( inside lake), from the seismic studies, it could be that;
      1. There are no oil prospects to drill on land or in lake. So no investor will want to drill even before you say no to drilling. But the country will have got revenue from the early studies.
      2. There are prospects on land and/or lake. On land and in protected areas elsewhere in the world drilling has taken place in similar environments with minimal effects. Also its possible to drill on land directionally targeting areas under the lake and hence reduce the risk to the lake and cost. The drilling rig will not sit in the lake.
      3. Once resrves are proved to exist I think thats when serious measures have to be looked into as oil would be produced to the surface…by this time you are probably in 2025 or beyond. Imagine all the gains over that period…taxes, jobs, skills etc

      1. mchisala says:

        Chikutumbwe, you are still writing from so much ignorance. Which EISA’s are you talking about apart from cooked up ones? I am writing from experience because I could not get one from the appropriate authorities! Oil & gas exploration are just as dangerous if you knew what goes on! What jobs and skills are you talking about, this is very specialized work–you will be lucky to get a handful! Actually the nature of oil companies that have shown interest says a lot about the venture because a truly capable one would shy away from work on a fresh-water lake! You should learn a lot from your flood insurance debacle that you know so little about these things!

    4. Nyanja says:

      My friend. Look at Nigeria and problems they have had to encounter with their lakes. They have been contaminated to an extent that there is no more life under their waters. With oil prices declining they are in economic downward trend. In fact they have more problems than solutions. Early this year they did not have petrol to put in their cars yet they have oil. Big companies export crude oil to their motherland, process it, and sell you back fuel at a higher price.
      Even with oil and the best minerals Malawi will never be rich because it lacks good leadership with good vision. How many leaders have we gone through since independence? Why do we have to rely on donors? Donors are tired my friend. Look at what recently happened with Brexit in Britain. They don’t want friends with no benefit. People who always want to be helped.
      AGRICULTURE CAN PAY IF WELL MANAGED!

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