One of the country’s environmental activists has told Malawi government to scrap all Lake Malawi oil exploration and drilling contracts it signed with various companies.
Last week government made a u-turn on suspending oil exploration on Lake Malawi involving two firms, Hamra and Ras al Khaima Gas (Rak Gas), after clearing the two of any wrongdoing.
A legal opinion from the Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale late last year had called for cancellation of deals involving blocks 4 and 5 on Lake Malawi as the AG believed then that the law had been broken in awarding the “adjoining or contagious [sic] blocks” to related companies of Hamra and Rak Gas.
But Kaphale was quoted by local media said government investigated the link between the two companies after documents related to the sale of deed of oil exploration licence by Surestream Petroleum Limited to Hamra Holdings Limited dated December 2013 named Rak Gas as a guarantor of the agreement in its capacity as sister company of Hamra.
However, director of Institute of Sustainable Development (SDI) Godfrey Mfiti said in an interview with Malawi24 on Wednesday that the issue of oil exploration on Lake Malawi leaves a lot to be desired.
He further said the government of Malawi has totally failed to be transparent in awarding the oil concessions hence need to withdraw the go ahead licences.
“Malawians have been duped and taken for granted since the truth has been withheld from them. We would like to know what has changed and why the government proceeded to maintain the contracts on block 4 and 5.”
“As an environmental activist and knowing the importance of Lake Malawi as a source of livelihood and drinking water, I say no to oil drilling in Lake Malawi. So, the oil projects on Lake Malawi must be withdrawn,” Mfiti told this reporter.
He added that the cost of drinking water is on the rise to an extent of having VAT on water.
According to the activist, it means that when government starts drilling oil and at the same time tapping water from Lake Malawi for drinking, the cost of drinking water will go up.
Mfiti continued saying the benefits of drilling oil are not guaranteed to ordinary Malawians since the process has started with secrecy and allegations of corrupt practices in the way contracts were awarded.
He said he believes government of Malawi must set its priorities right to uplift the poor by promotion of sustainable economic projects and added that Malawi must promote a green economy and not compromise access to clean and safe drinking water.
He finally urged Malawians to say no to exploitation of Lake Malawi for oil saying the lake must sustain livelihoods, fisheries, and agriculture and provide drinking water.
Lake Malawi is divided into six segments for oil and gas exploration with Block One awarded to Sac Oil Holdings Limited of South Africa in 2012.
Blocks Two and Three were awarded to a British firm Surestream Petroleum in 2011 but in 2013 Hamra Oil Holdings acquired 51 percent stake in the Surestream licences.
Blocks Four and Five were awarded to Rak Gas in July 2013 whereas the sixth block went to Pacific Oil.