Established in 1925, the Virunga National Park is the oldest protected area in Africa. Located in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the park was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and Ramsar wetland in 1996 due to its outstanding biodiversity. Despite its status as a protected area, the fragile ecosystem of this park has been facing repeated threats for oil exploration permitted by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Between 2005 – 2010, despite the ordinance Law of August 22, 1969 on nature conservation and international conventions ratified by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the government through the Ministry of Hydrocarbons approved licenses for oil concessions to SOCO International (Block V), Total (Block III) and Efora Energy (Block III) to search for oil, without restrictions regarding the sanctuary. After intense mobilisations from the frontline activists, Total and SOCO announced that they would stop all their operations within the Park’s borders. However, the danger remains because of the changes in the Congolese 2015 Oil Law that authorizes the President to grant oil exploration in the National Parks according to the Minister of Hydrocarbons. As a result, in 2017, the Congolese minister of hydrocarbons launched the operations of declassifying around 1720.75 km2 of the Virunga Park (representing 21.5% of its total surface) to allow oil exploration in protected areas. 

As we celebrate “People and Nature” for the edition of the World Wetlands 2022, the local communities and civil society are calling upon the Congolese government to protect the park, which is home to unique flora and fauna including large colonies of hippos and around 200 of the critically endangered mountain gorillas, by prioritizing investments in renewable energy sources to promote the sustainable development of local economies through existing economic alternatives within protected areas.

You can help us share the call for a Fossil Free Virunga through the webpage & petition to call on President Felix Tshisekedi to immediately halt all oil development activities in Virunga, in order to avert the adverse effects on the communities and the environment.