The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Mzuzu Diocese has asked government to tread carefully in the new Oil drilling venture that will take place on Lake Malawi saying they could be catastrophic consequences if certain studies are either rushed or ignored.
Surestream Petroleum, a UK firm that has been awarded a licence to explore for hydro- carbons in the Lake Malawi basin, says existing data on the basin’s geology shows similar characteristics to some areas in Africa where oil has been discovered.
CCJP’s Diocesan Secretary, Alnord Msimuko said the Kayerekera Uranium mine in Karonga District is a clear example of how people fail to benefit from resources they have kept for generations.
Msimuko said this during a stakeholders’ consultative forum in Rumphi District which Surestream Petroleum Company this week.
The Malawi government has given Surestream the go ahead to drill Oil from Lake Malawi’s blocks 2 and 3 which run from Karonga to Nkhotakota.
“We urge government to consider the plight of local people before engaging in any contract with these companies,” Msimuko said.
Livingstonia University Dean of Environment Leonard Gondwe agreed with CCJP saying authorities should be mindful of the fact that most Malawians depend on fishing on the lake.
“As a government we have shown the inability to negotiate good deals for our people that is why local people always cry foul,” Gondwe observed.
But University of Malawi’s Ecologist Meya Kalindekafe backed government saying it will only permit the actual drilling upon the completion of all necessary studies.
Kalindekafe, who is also a Senior Lecturer at Chancellor College, is leading a six- member team of experts Surestream hired to conduct the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) on Lake Malawi.
A microfinance commentator and blogger, Dr Kennedy Lweya argues that “as long as the cost-benefit analysis is favourable or points to more benefits and that we can manage or mitigate the externalities (including environmental) caused by the mining venture (including oil exploration) then let us go for it.”
Lweya said in a post on his blog: “ How the benefits are managed and distributed is of course also a matter of policy – it can be resolved for the benefit of the nation at large.”
UK based Surestream Petroleum Company was established in 2004. It was among six companies that bid for licences for oil exploration in the Lake Malawi basin.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :