A week after President Peter Mutharika issued a decree allowing the exploration of oil on Lake Malawi, Malawians have criticised the president over his decision which they say is tantamount to selling the water resource to oil drilling companies.
Last week, Mutharika lifted ban on oil and gas exploration exercise on Lake Malawi, on the belief that the exploration will help the country’s economy.
“I am pleased to inform you that the President Mutharika has lifted the ban. More details will come from the relevant ministry. I am glad that the president has picked this path. The mining sector will play an important role,” Minister of Foreign Affairs George Chaponda told the press.
The Mutharika led government has since received applications from companies in Georgia and Kazakhstan. Two years ago, the Malawi leader suspended oil and gas exploration on the lake amid allegations that the awarding of licenses to foreign companies was dubiously done.
But the announcement has not received any blessings from Malawians let alone environmental activists.
While most Malawi24 readers commenting on the story questioned whether oil drilling would help Malawi, others were more cautious.
Esau Mwamwaya wrote: ”Guys, we are not saying it’s a bad move but we can foresee bad experiences ahead. It has happened before with Kayelekera and what makes you think it won’t happen again? And don’t forget Kayelekera went out of our sight in the same DPP government. I know most of those who are in support of this mayhem have something to benefit from it. They are part of this corrupt regime. They just wanna suck the masses of this nation.”
“I would rather be in support of it if the government trained some of our local qualified miners to deal with it and not these masked men they are trying to employ. I know managing it ourselves can be a challenge but come time, we’ll learn how to deal with it ourselves. The best resource that almost every lake provides is fish, the rest is secondary. And remember that where you want to plant your oil drilling machines is almost the same area where Kayelekera operated and the locals of that area still don’t understand what happened exactly.”
And in an interview with Malawi24, Environmental Activists without Borders and Institute of Sustainable Development (ISD) in Malawi executive director Godfrey Mfiti argued that it is a haphazard decision for the Malawi government to lift the ban on exploration citing the need to consider people who use the lake to sustain their livelihoods.
While saying that there would not be any action they will take, Mfiti repeated that the activists will stand strong to their stance not to accept oil drilling on the lake.
”We (activists) and the people in the lake shore areas, will fight for our lives because the government has not provided any safety measure. Oil spills happens in any oil drilling adventures. Government must provide an alternative source of likelihood, if they want to proceed with the process” Mfiti said.
He has further said that the activists will not accept any drilling adventures even if any condition is attached. Initially, in a series of posts on Malawi24, Mfiti argued that the oil drilling could leave Malawi worse off other than the way it looks.
“The oil exploration process when it comes to drilling stage will affect the aquatic ecology of the entire Lake Malawi. The rare endemism of cichlids fish species occur due to special evolutionary processes. Drilling oil is accompanied by heavy machinery, noise and pollution which will automatically affect the marine ecosystem. This has been proven through a number of scientific studies.
“The country does not have safety nets and measures to mitigate man-made disaster in a fresh water lake. The potential of oil spills pose a huge threat to our fresh water lake. The drilling of oil involves release of waste water that is often too salty. Such water is lethal to aquatic biodiversity and not good for human consumption.” Mfiti wrote.