60 environmental protection groups have signed a moratorium dubbed Global Mobilization for Protection of UNESCO World Heritage against Oil: Save Virunga calling for a halt to all oil activities in the wider Virunga area.
In a joint statement the groups under the name Virunga Alliance called on UNESCO and the governments of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to reach an agreement to prevent any oil exploration, extraction or related activities in the wider Virunga area which is key to the integrity of the Virunga World Heritage Site.
The groups insist the agreement should include Virunga and Queen Elizabeth national parks and the whole of Lake Edward with all existing exploration licences in this area, as well as plans to issue new ones, be abandoned.
In particular they assert the Government of Uganda should withdraw the Ngaji oil block from the current oil licencing round with immediate effect while the DRC government should refrain from granting any new licences, or transfer of licences, in Virunga National Park or seek to re-draw its boundaries in order to allow oil activities in the area.
“Although the immediate areas of concern as detailed in this communication are within Uganda and DRC, given it also borders the Virunga World Heritage Site within the wider Virunga area, we would welcome and invite the inclusion of Rwanda in such an agreement,” read part of the statement.
Last year SOCO International carried out seismic testing on Lake Edward in Virunga National Park, but withdrew following widespread local opposition and a huge international outcry. SOCO International committed to no further involvement in its oil block in Virunga and has since announced that it no longer owns the licence but did not provide further details.