KINSHASA, Jun 16 (IPS) – 9 of the 16 oil blocks to be auctioned within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) subsequent month overlap Protected Areas, in response to a review of official government maps by Greenpeace Africa.
Minister Didier Budimbu, who had beforehand insisted that “none” of the blocks overlaps Protected Areas, confirmed Greenpeace’s findings in a statement yesterday.
Plans to public sale rainforest for oil have been reactivated in April, 5 months after the signature of a $500 million forest deal signed with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) at COP26.
Greenpeace Africa and others have expressed alarm that three of the blocks overlap with the Cuvette Centrale peatlands, a biodiversity hotspot containing about 30 gigatons of carbon, equal to 3 years of world emissions. Oil drilling may launch the immense shares of carbon they retailer, warned Professor Simon Lewis of College Faculty London.
That Protected Areas are additionally in danger grew to become obvious final month when the Hydrocarbons Ministry itself revealed a video that includes a map of six of the 16 blocks : 5 of them are clearly proven to overlap Protected Areas.
The voice-over praises the “meticulousness” with which blocks had been “chosen,” aware of environmental “sensibilities,” and claiming enter from unnamed environmentalists.
One other official on-line supply, the Setting Ministry Forest Atlas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, exhibits 9 of the blocks overlapping Protected Areas, together with a nationwide park, nature reserves, and a mangroves marine park.
The Ministry’s statement to Greenpeace Africa asserts: “It’s been determined that Protected Areas containing mineral pure sources of excessive financial worth can be degazetted.”
Whereas it describes the overlaps as “very negligible,” a easy evaluate of the map exhibits important overlap in a minimum of three instances, together with that of Upemba Nationwide Park, a part of which occupies a few third of the Upemba block.
Irene Wabiwa Betoko, Worldwide Venture Chief for the Congo Basin forest at Greenpeace Africa stated: “The public sale of recent oil blocks wherever throughout a local weather disaster that disproportionately impacts African individuals is mad.
Greenwashing the public sale of blocks overlapping peatlands and Protected Areas is the peak of cynicism. Doing so with such amateurism is especially disturbing.”
In its assertion to Greenpeace Africa, the Ministry emphasizes that no areas inside UNESCO World Heritage websites are up for public sale and that overlaps are restricted to different Protected Areas. Congolese legislation, nevertheless, makes no distinction, by way of oil exploration, amongst Protected Areas.
Block 18, one of many few that doesn’t encroach on a Protected Space, is barely about twenty kilometers from Salonga Nationwide Park, a UNESCO website. In July 2021, the DRC authorities succeeded in removing Salonga from the List of World Heritage in Danger after it promised to replace UNESCO, no later than 1 February 2022, on “the progress made in direction of the definitive cancellation of the oil concessions” there.
Over two months after the deadline, the federal government reported that the park’s steering committee selected 14 December 2021 to “provoke actions for the definitive cancellation.” As a substitute of lastly performing, the federal government continues planning to behave.
“The mouth that claims all the precise issues concerning the local weather and biodiversity crises works individually from the hand that indicators the contracts that make them worse. This disconnect additionally characterizes DRC’s donors: their COP26 speeches in reward of the Congo rainforest have resulted in an settlement that’s an open invitation to grease firms,” added Irene Wabiwa.
The settlement signed at COP26 does nothing to guard peatlands of the Cuvette Centrale from the oil and fuel trade, and is hardly extra demanding with regard to the integrity of Protected Areas.
As a substitute of banning extractive industries in them, the 2 November letter of intent seeks solely injury management. It requires a examine “to find out to what extent the titles of hydrocarbons overlap with and/or have an effect on protected areas, with a view to adopting applicable prevention or mitigation measures ”.
Greenpeace Africa calls on the DRC authorities to cancel the public sale of recent oil blocks: “As a substitute of auto-pilot steering Congo right into a local weather disaster, the federal government and the worldwide group should put money into ending vitality poverty by accelerating investments in clear and accessible renewable energies,” concluded Irene Wabiwa.
Tal Harris is Worldwide Communications Coordinator, Greenpeace Africa: and Raphaël Mavambu is Communications and Media Advisor, Greenpeace Africa.
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