Decision to halt oil exploration in Congolese park welcomed by UNESCO

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Wildlife at Virunga National Park © UNESCO Author: Guy Debonnet

The announcement by a UK-based oil company to halt exploration activities in a World Heritage Status park in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been welcomed the UN cultural agency, UNESCO.

In a statement, SOCO international agreed "not to undertake or commission any exploratory or drilling" activities within Virunga National Park unless UNESCO and the Congolese Government agree that "such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage Status".

Virunga includes an enormous diversity of ecosystems, from the snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains and the active volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains to the wetlands of Lake Edward.

It harbours what UNESCO has called an "enormous biodiversity", including the mountain gorilla, but also okapi, elephants, and many other species. The site was seriously impacted by the past years of conflict in the DR Congo.

SOCO joins two other oil firms SHELL and TOTAL, as well as the International Council on Mining and Metals which have undertaken not to explore or start mining operations within World Heritage sites.

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations

Duration: 1’34″

 

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