NGOs call for cancelling ‘disastrous’ oil permit in Rep. of Congo’s most biodiverse protected area

Published 11:28 on June 21, 2024  /  Last updated at 11:28 on June 21, 2024  / Giada Ferraglioni /  Africa, Biodiversity, EMEA

Human rights activists in the Republic of Congo (RoC) and other NGOs have called for the revocation of an oil exploration permit in Conkouati-Douli National Park, saying it will gravely threaten the most biodiverse protected area in the country.

Human rights activists in the Republic of Congo (RoC) and other NGOs have called for the revocation of an oil exploration permit in Conkouati-Douli National Park, saying it will gravely threaten the most biodiverse protected area in the country.

A newly released map and analysis carried out by US-based NGO Earth Insight, with contributions from Greenpeace Africa, found the recently approved exploration permit poses considerable risks to tropical forests, endangered species, and local communities who live in the area.

The permit, held by Chinese company China Oil Natural Gas Overseas Holding (85%) and RoC’s state oil company SNPC (15%), was approved in February by the government following a January decision by the council of ministers.

According to Earth Insight, it overlaps 26% of the park and over 1,000 square kilometres of tropical forest.

Overall, the park protects more than 5,000 sq. km of coastal, marine, and forest ecosystems, with an additional 800 sq. km of the buffer zone and 2,900 sq. km of offshore area, representing Congo’s first marine protected area.

“It would be a disaster for human and economic rights, the environment, and the governance,” Earth Insight said in a statement.

Unless it’s reversed, the decision will have significant consequences for the conservation and landscape integrity of the block and the park as a whole, the NGO said.

Source: Earth Insight 

In response to the government’s move, 13 local NGOs asked donors to suspend conservation financing for the park until the permit is cancelled. Currently, major donors include the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) and the European Union.

“By opening Conkouati-Douli National Park to extractives, critical landscapes risk being degraded and fragmented, endangering the ecosystem services they provide and the local livelihoods that rely on them,” said Anna Bebbington, senior spatial analyst at Earth Insight.

The park, established in 1999, is located on the coast of the RoC, along the border with Gabon.

It is home to approximately 7,000 people in 28 villages whose livelihoods depend on the forest, and hosts key endangered wildlife species, including Western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and forest elephants.

With its over 130 sq. km of wetlands, rivers, lakes, and streams, the park is also a recognised Ramsar site under the global convention that promotes the conservation of wetlands.

“The forests of the Congo Basin are vital not only for the survival of forest communities but also for the African continent as a whole,” said Murtala Touray, programme director at Greenpeace Africa.

“Responding to the challenge of global climate change will require strong African leadership.”

Currently, over 65% of Conkouati-Douli National Park overlaps with oil and gas blocks, either available or with exploration permits, Earth Insight said.

Earlier this month, the US-based NGO released a separate analysis on the expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure worldwide, which it said is slated to put coastal and marine ecosystems under increasing pressure, calling on governments and international organisations to ensure biodiversity-rich regions are effectively protected.

By Giada Ferraglioni – giada@carbon-pulse.com

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