The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has recently been the subject of actions by European Parliamentarians encouraged by IUCN.
The Congolese government has started a full Strategic Environmental Assessment in all the oil concession areas in and around Virunga but this study is not yet complete. Several European oil companies have received concessions from the Congolese government to start investigations, and aerial surveys have started. Virunga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the World Heritage Convention forbids oil development in World Heritage sites. This is also prohibited under national legislation.
Why is this an issue for Europe? The European Commission, and some of its Member States have provided millions of Euro to support the DRC government in conserving and managing its forests and biodiversity, and a portion of these funds are specifically earmarked for the conservation of Virunga National Park.
IUCN has worked with some Members of the European Parliament and other stakeholders to express concerns to the Government of DRC on the concessions and to urge the companies to wait for the findings of the Strategic Assessment.
These efforts resulted in the European Parliament addressing the European Commissioner for Development with concerns, and parliamentary questions being asked to clarify what action will be taken.
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is known for its mountain gorillas. Despite the ongoing conflict in the eastern DRC which has badly affected the Park and the people working in it, the Park still stands strong. With the relatively stable situation we see today, gorilla tourism is developing and this provides an income to many Congolese people living in and around the Park.
IUCN is the Advisory Body on nature to the World Heritage Committee, the decision-making body of the World Heritage Convention, and is gravely concerned that oil exploration and exploitation within the park is likely to have significant and potentially irreversible adverse effects on its exceptional species and habitats.
Read more about the 'Land of the Mountain Gorilla': see blog post by IUCN Regional Director for Europe.