The Ugandan Government has granted approval to 16 companies to bid for oil exploration rights for six blocks in an environmentally sensitive area around Lake Edward.
Companies that secured approvals include Nigeria-based Oranto, Russian firm Telconet, and RT Global Resources.
Lake Edward forms part of Africa’s oldest Virunga National Park, and provides livelihood for an estimated 200,000 fishermen, as well as people residing in nearby areas.
Ngaji is one of the six blocks under offer, covering Lake Edward and large parts of part of Queen Elizabeth National Park immediately adjacent to Virunga.
Oil exploration in Ngaji block could risk oil spill or leak into the lake, impacting food and water security for many people.
In January 2016, 60 local and international environmental groups urged Uganda to not license an oil exploration block close to the Virunga park, arguing that drilling would harm the ecosystem.
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World Heritage Center of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) director Kishore Rao wrote to the ambassador in 2015 claiming that drilling around Lake Edward will destroy the fragile ecosystem that crosses into the Congo, The Observer reported.
Tullow Oil, which also secured approval, already drilled nearly 80 wells in Uganda on the shores of Lake Albert further north.
Established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park, Virunga is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979 and its wildlife population was damaged in recent years due to poaching and the Congo Civil War.
Image: Lake Edward from Mweya in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. Photo: courtesy of Duncan Wright.