Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

Tread carefully on Lake Malawi oil drilling

For a very long time, this country has been entangled in an ownership wrangle with neighbouring Tanzania over some northern part of Lake Malawi.

Tanzania claims that it owns half of the northern part of the lake; a development that has been bringing discomfort not only to people in the shores of the lake but the two countries’ citizens as a whole.

So it is pleasing to note that President Peter Mutharika has reaffirmed Malawi’s commitment to protect the ownership and interest of Lake Malawi against encroachment.

In the absence of the country’s national policy on the lake and with the stalemate on the mediations on the disagreement, the bold statement made by the President is the better way to go. Otherwise, if we are to see an end to the lake’s wrangle with Tanzania then Mutharika’s declaration can as well be documented as the country’s final position.

But caution must be exercised on oil drilling on the lake.

Lake Malawi is one of only three deep-water long-lived lakes in existence on earth; others are Lakes Tanganyika and Baikal (Siberia).

And the lake is undisputed jewel of Africa containing just under one-fifth of the surface freshwater supplies of the world.

Suffice to say it is very costly to clean out oil spillage on freshwater. The spillage incident that took place in 2010 by the British Petroleum Oil Company on the Gulf of Mexico in the United States of America is a prime example among many others.

Therefore, to leave the decision that is fated to relegate into ecological oblivion a 6.5 million-year-old wonder, a national resource that has sustained the livelihoods of hundreds of generations, to one or two individuals is the height of licentious dereliction of citizenry responsibility in the truest sense of the words.

There is need for a balanced and transparent debate on the exploiting of oil on the lake considering the gravity of the issue and the far-reaching consequences likely to emanate from the decision to proceed with oil and gas exploration and exploitation in our freshwater lake that presently provides immeasurable economic sustenance for the nation.

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