Two bodies of water in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda

CSOs call on presidents of Uganda and DRC to avoid oil exploration in sensitive ecosystems

Nearly 50 civil society organisations (CSOs) call on the presidents of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to avoid sensitive ecosystems in the planned and ongoing oil exploration licensing round in the Albertine Graben region. This area contains Virunga National Park in DRC, Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda and Lake Edward.

Header photo: Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda- © Henk Simons, IUCN NL

The call follows in response to plans from the Ugandan and Congolese government to issue licenses for oil exploration in this fragile ecosystem. ‘Oil exploration does not only go at the expense of the unique nature in this area, it also brings conflict and human rights violations affecting communities,’ says Tina Lain, Senior Expert Environmental Justice at IUCN NL.

Protect sensitive ecosystems from oil exploitation

Through a letter, the CSOs remind the presidents of the ecological, economic and social importance of the sensitive ecosystems in the Albertine Graben and call on them to protect sensitive ecosystems from oil exploitation.

‘The Albertine Graben harbors some of the most sensitive ecosystems of national and international importance,’ says Lain. ‘Oil exploration would not only affect wildlife but also the thousands of people that depend on this healthy ecosystem for their livelihoods.’ Some 200.000 people depend on fish from Lake Edward, while nature tourism is increasingly contributing to improved livelihoods.

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International obligations

The CSOs further remind the presidents of their national and international obligations to protect ecosensitive areas of world importance. ‘Virunga National Park is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, while Queen Elizabeth National Park is a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve and Lake Edward is classified as a Ramsar site,’ Lain explains. ‘In addition, the signees point out that oil exploitation is against the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.’

Recommendations on sustainable development

While calling on their presidents to protect sensitive ecosystems from oil exploitation, the CSOs also make recommendations for sustainable development, such as a focus on renewable energies and tourism. ‘Tourism can yield higher revenues than oil exploitation,’ Lain states. ‘Most importantly, these revenues will benefit community livelihoods.’

Tina Lain

no longer working at IUCN NL