Following on from my previous article, “Why it is important to save the Congo Rainforest & Basin”, (read that first if you haven’t already), further investigation was carried out by those at The Figure Head to truly understand why the second largest rainforest on Earth would need saving anyway?
Thanks to Save Congo Rainforest – a campaign across multiple countries in the fight for this region of Africa under threat – we were able to team up and help them in their pursuit in spreading awareness, truth and possibly gaining an extra voice or two.
In the first article, we highlighted the basic threats to the Congo and simply why these threats need to be diminished on quite frankly a humanitarian level. The protection of indigenous people, fragile species and delicate eco-systems were all the factors that were marked as under pressure from external forces. i.e. Us humans.
This second article looks at highlighting the cooperations and deeper underlining motivations that are fueling this seemingly massacre-esque deforestation and killing of wildlife.
This will probably be to nobody’s surprise that most of the activity in the region stems from our old friend oil. A failing industry that is reluctant to die without a fight. Much to the annoyance of our fellow environmentalists.
One of the most remote areas on the planet also keeps hold of one of humans’ most desired treasure, oil reserves. The river that crosses flooded savannahs and swampy forests before flowing into the Congo river is already home to an oil platform somewhere along it.
What does an un-touched oil reserve attract you may be thinking? Stinking rich international investors who do not care about the detriment that oil drilling causes as long as it remains profitable.
With Congo’s current financial situation, these investments could look to change their economic position forever which is why these oil reserves look like a god sent. However, an earlier article from TFH explains that oil is a dying industry so this financial cushion would only last so long. The problem with modernity though is that profits are extremely short sited, so this wouldn’t veer them away.
Furhtermore, in an attempt to soften the impact, every government is under obligation to determine the precautions and damage oil drilling will cause. However bad these these regulations turn out to be, it is necessary to have some form of laws in place to protect those around the reserves, such as the populations, animals and forestry.
What is most alarming is that a large scale investigation by Global Witness sheds new light on the imminent oil project. It reveals serious levels of corruption and the incredibly low inadequacy of environmental studies carried out. Even more, the global surprise of mass oil reserves in this region goes to show how much has been swept under the carpet.
Beneath the swampy forests lies the carbon equivalent of about 20 years of emissions from fossil fuels in the US and about 3 years globally. The oil that is stored in the peatlands by scientists was discovered in the Republic of Congo about three years ago.
Oil companies began drilling their last year after 2019 was the year marked by the regular launch of tenders inviting new oil investors for this area.
It has licensed oil explorations in blocks of land across more than half of the peatlands. If the oil is extracted it is feared that 30 billion tonnes of carbon will be released from the peat, says environmentalists.
Environmental Activist who is native to this region, Maixent Agnimbat says, “It will be catastrophic even if we try to exploit the oil in an environmentally friendly way as they will still have to destroy the eco-systems surrounding it.”
If oil cooperations decide to fully exploit this region, a big part of the peatlands would have to be drained to build roads and other infrastructure to make it more accessible for these cooperations.
The River Congo is the second largest river in the world and the rainforest that sits in it’s basin is the worlds second pair of lungs. The peatlands are found on both sides of the river and the carbon that lays beneath them is as much as is whats found above them in the entire forest. Its leaves and branches that fall from the trees and partially decompose to form the peatlands over 10,000 is why these regions hold such sentimental value.
We must protect it.
Government and investors
The Congolese government recieved $65 million (equivilant to Congolese Franc) in funding from European countries to preseerve the peatlands and the forests above.
However, certain activists say that this funding doesn’t rule out oil extraction. Congo is Africa’s third largest oil producer and two oil companies announced major on-shore oil discoveries near the peatlands in 2019.
Another spanner in this confusing mix of personalities is that the Republic of Congo Tourism and Environment Minister, Arlette Soudan-Nonault says the peatlands are safe.
She says, “What we are saying to the international community is that the Congolese government will not touch the peatlands if we ever find oil there. If we do it, if we find petroleum, we will do our best to do a good job.”
The reason that these oil reserves are so glamorous to investors is due to the fact there are about 1.6 billion estimated barrels per day available. That’s a lot of money.
Unfortunately, governments from both RCDR and ROC have both signed exploration agreements with massive oil companies located in the Basin. Exploration is one thing, whether they proceed is another.
Quickly, as highlighted in part 1, the peatlands are home to millions of people. It is thought that oil revenues help local communities, where as environmentalists would disagree with this assumption.
The morality behind this is unquestionable. If oil extraction does get the go ahead, which so far is what it’s looking like, the worlds largest tropical peatland and its huge carbon reservoir will be gone forever.
Join the fight and help save the Congo Rainforest
Credit: William Wand – The Figure Head
Sources: Global Witness
Inspiration: Save Congo Rainforest – Twitter