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Unesco pens government on oil exploration again

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The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has written government another letter as a reminder of its earlier warning against oil exploration on Lake Malawi, especially the bloc that has Lake Malawi National Park which is a world heritage site.

In a letter dated November 10 2016 and addressed to members of Malawi Natural Resources Justice Network, World Heritage Centre Director, Mechtild Rossler, said the centre has also reminded the government on the need to produce a progress report which is due on February 1,2017.

Rossler was responding to the Network’s letter of November 6 this year in which the network expressed concern over the advancing oil exploration activities in the lake.

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“I am pleased to inform you that in accordance with Paragraph 174 of the Operational Guidelines, we have written the State Party of Malawi, recalling the World Heritage Committee’s previous decisions. We have also reiterated the Committee’s request for a progress report by 1 February 2017,” Rossler said.

In its decision 38 COM 7B.92, the World Heritage Committee called on companies that have been awarded oil exploration concessions on Lake Malawi to make a commitment not to exploit nor explore for oil or gas in World Heritage properties.

The Committee also requested the government to ensure that any oil exploration outside the property be subject to Environmental Impact Assessments in conformity with World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.

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“The above mentioned advice note recommends that such assessments be publically disclosed and subject to thorough public consultation at different stages,” he said.

Head of Accountability, Policy and Programmes at Malawi Natural Resources Justice Network, Rachel Etter-Phoya, said government need not wait for World Heritage Centre deadline to say what is in the interest of the nation.

“We hope the government will also make a statement on this earlier to inform the citizens of Malawi and not wait for an international organisation’s deadline to make information public that is, first and foremost, in the interest of the nation,” Etter-Phoya said.

When government received the initial letter, the Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Bright Msaka, said the public has to understand that it is possible to drill oil but taking measures that there should be no spilling.

“As we move forward with this issue, we will have the need to protect our lake on the agenda. We are happy that the public and the World Heritage are concerned as we share their worry. We indeed need to be careful in order to save our treasured lake,” Msaka said.

He disclosed that the assessments to see if there is oil or not are still in progress.

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