Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bright Msaka vowed Tuesday to press on with oil and gas exploration on Lake Malawi, dismissing World Heritage Centre warning, especially the bloc that has the Lake Malawi National Park which is a world heritage site.
Msaka said government cannot compromise the lake in pursuit of oil.
“Government is proceding with oil exploration in Lake Malawi,” said Msaka in a local radio interview.
“Our concerns is not about environmentalist. We care about Lake Malawi and we would not want IT to be polluted,” he said.
Msaka stressed that here is no reason to stop the oil exploration project
“Technology today make it possible that we drill on the land not on the lake,” he said.
He said the “anxiety” by environmental activists is “unfounded”.
“There is evidence that there is oil on the land and also on Lake Malawi,” said Msaka.
But Msaka’s comments where sharply criticised by political activist Dan Msowoya of Mzuzu through Capital Radio’s Daybreak Malawi who read his text.
Msowoya accused Msaka of displaying “executive arrogance”, saying he should heed the advice of the experts.
Observers says Msaka position is not suprising considering rumours of corruption allegations on licence holders of the oil project. Msaka is said to be the major beneficiary of being ‘palm oiled’ and the project has made him top rich man in Malawi.
Director of Institute of Sustainable Development, a local non-governmental organisation advocating environmental rights, Godfrey Mfiti, said his organisation believes that the National Park has to be protected and the entire oil exploration activities in Lake Malawi should be withdrawn.
“The conservation efforts of Lake Malawi National Park can’t be compatible with oil exploration as it threatens the Outstanding Universal Values of Lake Malawi,” Mfiti said.
“ It is very clear from the World Heritage Convention that Lake Malawi is bound to lose its source of cichlids. The lake boasts about over a thousand cichlids where 300 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,” he said.
He noted that 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.
However, Msaka downplayed the fears stressing that the public has to understand that it is possible to drill oil but taking measures that there should be no spilling.
Malawi has been requested to submit a progress report to the World Heritage Centre by February 1, 2017 and an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and implementation of the above for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :