WWF seeks to protect Congo's Virunga National Park from oil developer

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is trying to block Soco International's proposed oil exploration in Congo's Virunga National Park, one Africa's oldest national parks where 200 gorillas live.

The WWF says Soco's plan violates Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines on sustainable development, public disclosure and other points.

"Soco's operations are putting Virunga's people, animals and habitats at risk. The only way for Soco to come into compliance with the OECD guidelines is for the company to end all exploration in Virunga for good," said Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Conservation at WWF International. "We urge the company to stop its activities immediately."

The WWF alleges that Soco has used state security forces to intimidate opponents, and has failed to disclose during community consultations vital information about potential environmental and health impacts of its exploration.

Further, it says the company's contract contains a clause effectively exempting it from future laws aimed at protecting human rights and the environment.

Soco's own impact assessment, the WWF says, shows that oil exploration could cause pollution, damage habitats and bring poaching to this fragile ecosystem. It could also harm residents' health and damage the natural resources upon which 50,000 people depend.

Last year the Congo government authorised Soco, which is based in London, to explore the region, saying that economic interests take precedence over environmental considerations.

The WWF filed a complaint on Monday with Britain's Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

Image: © Getty

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