CSOs demand protection of Ramsar sites near oil projects in East Africa

Ramsar site areas at risk

As the Africa Climate Summit gets underway, 61 Africa based Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have written to the Secretariat of the Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance demanding action to control the growing risk of Ramsar sites degradation.

They demand the Secretariat to add the Ramsar Wetlands that have been affected by TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s (CNOOC) projects in Uganda and Tanzania to the Montreux Record.

The Montreux Record is a “record of Ramsar Sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur due to technological developments, pollution or other human interference.”

Another area cited worth adding on the same list is the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which contains numerous oil blocks advertised by the government for exploration.

They argue that oil exploitation or exploration activities by TotalEnergies and CNOOC working with their host governments of Uganda, Tanzania and DRC, have put at least three Ramsar sites at risk of degradation.

They want these Ramsar wetlands to be better monitored by third parties to aid their conservation so that they continue to play their biodiversity conservation and climate stabilisation roles.

In their press release dated September 4, 2023, the CSOs also share maps based on satellite images that they say demonstrate how the Tilenga oil activities in Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) stand to affect one of Uganda’s most important Ramsar wetlands – the Murchison Falls-Albert Delta. 

A pipeline called the Victoria Nile crossing is expected to be constructed within the boundaries of the wetland. Two well pads are also being constructed close to the Ramsar site raising oil pollution and other fears.

Along the Tanzanian shore, two important Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) – the Pemba-Shimoni-Kisite site and the Tanga Coelacanth site – are at high risk from oil leaving the port at Tanga.

These EBSAs host several Marine Protected Areas, as well as Mangrove Forest Reserves. The Pemba-Shimoni-Kisite site is known for its coral reefs, as well as the endemic coconut crab (Birgus latro), the largest land-living arthropod. These need to be protected, the CSOs say.

The Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Environment Governance Institute in Uganda, Organisation for Community Engagement (OCE) in Tanzania and Innovation pour le Développement et la Protection de l’Environnement (IDPE) in the DRC are some of the CSOs subscribing to this demand from the Ramsar Secretariat.

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