Imploring Your Excellency to shelve plans to explore and exploit possible oil wealth on Lake Malawi
Your Excellency, Malawians whose livelihoods depend (and from time-immemorial have depended) on Lake Malawi remaining pristine and uncontaminated have viewed your election to the highest office on the land as God’s miraculous intervention in their favour on the matter.
Let me from the very outset dispel the shameful lies peddled by proponents of oil exploitation on Lake Malawi (and other mining activities in the country) that Malawi and its people are poor because they are not exploiting the possible mineral wealth in the lake. Nothing could be further from the truth. The country and its people are poor because the power holders and duty bearers ARE NOT committed to serving the country and its people and hence the perennial impoverishing decisions they make regarding everything and anything affecting the country and its people.
The proposal to explore and exploit the possible mineral wealth on the lake was not advanced to serve the country and its people but rather unpatriotic individuals (just like the mining at Kayelekera) considering the obvious calamitous environmental costs most likely to emanate from the activities and the miniscule benefits likely to accrue to the country and its people.
Your Excellency, the proposal to explore and exploit the possible mineral wealth on the lake has been advanced against the following shameful background:
- Malawi has no explicit national oil exploration and development policy that guarantees the positions, interests and rights of indigenous Malawians with respect to oil resources
- Malawi has no comprehensive legal and regulatory framework to govern the performance of the oil exploration and development industry and no functional industry-specific institutional framework and an impartial regulatory body to ensure that industry operations will be conducted in accordance with regulations, standards, guidelines and the best industry practices with due regard for the safety of persons and property, protection of the environment and conservation
- Malawi has no effective, efficient and transparent fiscal framework and revenue sharing mechanisms to protect the revenue interests of all the stakeholders, save giving adhoc fiscal incentives to exploration and development firms
- Although Malawi is a signatory to several conventions relating to how global commons like Lake Malawi should be used for environmental sustainability and is a signatory of international environment protection frameworks such as the Nairobi Convention on Biological Diversity and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, hydrocarbon extractive works and the Arhus Convention in 2000, the pitiful environmental legislation that is on the books has not been adequately updated to align with the requirements of the conventions
- Although oil exploration and exploitation have a potential to create cataclysmic environmental impact there has been no impetus to develop industry-specific EIA guidelines, environmental assessment requirements with clear legislative mandate and provisions vested in law, and specific and enforceable compliance requirements with the result that although the EIA report on oil exploration on Lake Malawi does not document clearly and impartially impacts of the proposal, the proposed measures for mitigation, the significance of the effects, the concerns (values, views and perceptions) of the interested public and communities affected by the proposal, it is considered as having complied with the laid requirements , much less the World Bank’s OP 4.01..
- The value of the lake (in its pristine state) to stakeholders whose entire livelihoods depend on it (such as the people of the twin islands of Likoma and Chidzumulu) or stakeholders who depend on the Shire River for their entire drinking water-requirements far exceeds the value of the oil that can be mined from the lake.
Your Excellency, you may agree with me that a serious and honest investor would NEVER put his hard-earned money where the ‘rules and laws of the operating environment’ are unclear or non-existent as is the case in our present Malawi. The weak regulatory environment is undoubtedly attracting dishonest ‘investors’ too willing to exploit our situation. The two oil exploration license awardees have no experience in exploring and/or exploiting oil in fresh-water lakes or hydrocarbon extractive works in countries with strict environmental regulations and enforcement which should have been a critical requirement for their selection.
As a true son of the land, I felt compelled to implore Your Excellency to indefinitely shelve all plans for exploration and exploitation of whatever oil that maybe on Lake Malawi in the best interest of all those whose livelihoods continue to depend on the lake remaining pristine and uncontaminated.
I am very hopeful Your Excellency will favourably consider my humble and sincere request.
Chisala, Maxwell L.
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