Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — Africa’s oldest national park, a World Heritage Area under the Unesco Convention and home to the last mountain gorillas — is under imminent threat. Ignoring the Unesco World Heritage Convention and the country’s own state law, the DRC has issued UK-based oil company SOCO International two permits to start oil exploration in Virunga National Park.
These latest development go against a commitment made by the government of the DRC to hold off any further activities until the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) is fully completed and discussed between the various stakeholders. The SEIA, commissioned and partly funded by the European Union, is due in late 2012.
Furthermore, under the 10th European Development Fund, the European Commission currently provides EUR 10 million to support the DRC government through the ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) in conserving and managing the 7 800 km2 park.
Is the Commission aware that current and past investments by the international community will largely go to waste should oil exploration commence in the park, as 85 %of Virunga National Park has been included in the oil concessions?