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World Wetlands Day: DRC Urged to Protect Virunga National Park From Oil Exploitation

Climate activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are urging the Congolese government to safeguard Virunga National Park by canceling any active licenses for oil exploration in the park.

The call was made at the celebration of this year’s World Wetlands Day observed on Friday, February 2, 2024.

Virunga, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979 and a Ramsar site since 1996, is celebrated for its significant wetland areas and diverse biodiversity. The park faces imminent threats from extractive activities, due to the issuance of licenses for oil exploration in blocks located in the park, by the government.

In addition, activists have raised concerns with the Congolese government’s plan to auction 30 oil and gas blocks, nine of which are within Cuvette Centrale in the Congo basin placing the sensitive ecosystem and the well-being of local communities in jeopardy.

In response to the project’s launch in July 2022, environmental activists and civil society actors have persistently protested, calling on authorities to protect the sensitive ecosystems in line with conservation laws and international conventions on the same.

As the global climate crisis intensifies, the activists emphasise the urgency of exploring sustainable pathways built on readily available renewable energy sources, thereby mitigating the adverse effects of fossil fuel exploration.

Christian Hounkannou, Regional Organiser at 350Africa.org, said: “In the face of ecological urgency, we stand as guardians, urging the world to echo the plea: Preserve Virunga, today, on World Wetlands Day.

The Democratic Republic of Congo grapples with a pivotal moment, as the unsettling news of oil and gas block sales carry on. We, the climate organizers of Africa, declare: Our wetlands are not for sale, our legacy is not for compromise. Together, we rise against the tides of short-sighted gains, championing a sustainable future.”

Johnnyta Roy, a climate activist from the Youth Movement for Environmental Protection (MJPE-RDC), states: “World Wetlands Day serves as a platform to shed light on the important role wetlands play in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

“We urge the government to take the necessary measures to alleviate the threats to these critical ecosystems by canceling active oil exploration licenses in Virunga National Park and the sale of oil and gas blocks within the Congo basin.”

Justin Mutabesha, an activist with FossilFreeVirunga, stated: “This year, we remain committed to mobilizing grassroots communities against the destructive project threatening Virunga National Park. The park is a lifeline for thousands of communities, and we are resolute in our efforts to thwart this perilous venture.”

Despite calls from national and international environmental organisations, the Congolese government has yet to provide a favourable response regarding the cancellation of the auction of 30 oil and gas blocks.

Dare Akogun

Dare Akogun is a dynamic media innovator, strategic communication professional, and seasoned climate and environmental sustainability journalist with over 10 years of influential contributions to the media industry.

He Currently serving as the Head of Digital Media, Senior News Editor, and a presenter at Sobi FM 101.9, a leading radio station in Ilorin, Nigeria.

Dare is on a mission to leverage his media innovation expertise and project management skills to produce high-quality, accurate, and engaging content, while advocating for reduced fossil fuel consumption, especially coal, to combat effect of global warming.

He has covered comprehensively environmental issues and COP conferences, including COP28 in Dubai last year , COP 27 in Egypt, and the United Nations Least Developed Countries conference in Doha, in 2023.

He is a recipient of fellowship to be part of a 15 team of journalists selected worldwide to cover the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2024.

He has a Master's Degree in Mass Communication, from the University of Lagos, a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the Lagos State University and also a
Certification in Business Administration and Management, from the Babson College, Massachusetts, United States of America.

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