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Greenpeace opposes DRC oil and gas project

Saturday July 23 2022
forest

Aerial view of the area between Beni and Butembo in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo Basin alone houses six percent of all the irrecoverable carbon on earth. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

By PARTICK ILUNGA

The Democratic Republic of Congo government’s decision to put up 30 oil and gas blocks for sale is roiling environmental group Greenpeace, which wants explorers to keep off the fossil fuel project as it lies in a protected area.

Greenpeace said this week it was launching a petition seeking international support to block the Congolese authorities’ ambition, terming it a dirty project in one of the world’s greenest places yet.

The environmental NGO says that “three of these blocks are located in a peatland area that is a carbon bomb.”

“The peatlands of the Central Cuvette are the largest tropical peatland complex. They store about 30 gigatonnes of CO₂, equivalent to one year of global carbon emissions. Because of its inaccessibility, little is yet known about the rich biodiversity of its irreplaceable ecosystems,” it said.

“More than half of all peatlands are located in the DRC, which is home to 60 percent of the world's second largest tropical forest, making it a key player in the fight against climate change,” added Irene Wabina Betoko, the International project leader for Congo Basin forest for Greenpeace.

Read: Congo Basin integral in climate sustainability

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This emerged after Kinshasa announced 27 oil blocks and three gas wells were up for sale. The auction is scheduled for July 28 and 29 and initially concerned 16 oil and gas blocks.

And hydrocarbons minister Didier Budimbu said the government wants to attract investors in the hydrocarbon sector. Congo has 32 oil blocks in total. Mr Budimbu and his colleague Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment Eve Bazaïba tried to reassure environmentalists, saying that “the oil and gas blocks concerned by these calls for tender are outside protected areas

Greenpeace said: “This sale would be a disaster for the population, biodiversity and the global climate,” wrote Ms Betoko.

“The Congo Basin rainforest is home to millions of people, exceptional flora and fauna, including the three great ape species (chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas). It is essential for preservation of biodiversity and the fight against the climate crisis,” said the NGO.

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