The question of whether to drill oil on Lake Malawi has been an ongoing topic of discussion in the country since exploration works were suspended though the idea continues to receive a cold shoulder from local people.
Malawians have continued to reject the proposal to drill the lake after weighing the potential harm oil exploration might have upon the wildlife, in particular aquatic animals.
Findings by a local organization, Wildlife Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM), seems to be confirming these fears as they have revealed that there will be a huge impact once the lake is drilled.
The report indicates that the Malawi does not have the capacity to enforce regulations preventing disposal of wastewater.
Lake Malawi has a flushing ability of 750 years and any spillage will take a period of 750 years to flush itself through natural processes. “Oil exploration in Lake Malawi is not sustainable.
Must be stopped. It will damage the only fresh water Lake for Malawi,” reads part of the report by WESM made available to Malawi24.
The WESM report was signed by Environmental Activists without Borders and Institute of Sustainable Development (ISD) in Malawi whose executive director Godfrey Mfiti disagrees with the exploration projects.
In its recommendations, the WESM report advises government to take appropriate action for the implementation of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals particularly the provisions in Goal number 6 which aims at achieving sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
WESM has since urged government to promote valuation of Lake Malawi so that decisions which are made on its utilisation are evidence-based and economically fool proof.
In the report, the environmental body also advises government to conduct transparent Environmental Impact Assessments for development projects and Strategic Environmental Assessments to guide the development strategies especially in a freshwater lake like Lake Malawi.
WESM further calls on government to promote public private partnerships in conserving the outstanding universal values of Lake Malawi and Lake Malawi National Park. A public talk entitled “Is Oil drilling in Lake Malawi a Sustainable Development?” where the report was presented, attracted members of WESM and other guests including representatives from the international community.
The public talk saw a rich discussion on Environmental Policy review, on state of readiness by the country in oil exploration, and on government’s ability to enforce local regulations.
Meanwhile, residents residing along the lake have vowed to fight government once it proceeds with the drilling saying such deals only benefits politicians and other top officials. In 2013, government offered licenses to four international companies which include Rak Gas, the Surestream-Hamra Oil Holdings Venture, Pacific Oil and Sac Oil.
But the deals were called off in November 2014 after criticism from the civil society and United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Government also announced the suspension of an exploration exercise and that it was yet to make a decision on cancellation and renegotiation of production sharing agreements with companies licensed to explore oil and gas.
This was after legal opinion from Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale faulted the manner in which some deals were awarded.
Lake Malawi comprises an area of 29, 600 square kilometres and it is the southernmost lake in the East African Rift Valley system located between Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
The lake is home to more species of fish than any other lake, including about 1000 species of Cichlids.