The Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda have allowed the British Oil Company Soco to run seismic tests in Virunga National Park.
Virunga National park encompasses jungle forests, two active volcanoes, large lakes and a great savannah plain that make it one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Its 7,800 square kilometres (3,010 square miles) is the home of the critically endangered mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, two species of elephants, the elusive okapi, and giraffes.
Soco has determined that oil is present in the park . Soco companies own environmental reports admit that oil drilling will cause pollution and intense damage to the ecosystem.
The park is a UNESCO (UN cultural body) dedicated world heritage site who works with the Congolese government to operate the park. UNESCO says that oil exploration in the park goes against its world heritage status but the Congolese government is interested in the revenue the oil drilling would produce.
Over 60 environmental groups have signed a petition against oil exploration within the park including Greenpeace and the African Wildlife Foundation. The NGO’s requested that the Congolese government stop any further attempts to drill in the park. According to Carol Fan, Deputy Company Secretary at Soco, the company no longer holds any licence areas in the DRC.
Critics are concerned that allowing oil exploration would cripple the growing tourist industry and open the park to poachers as well as encourage problems with the local militias.
Images (c) AFP