Nkhotakota District Executive Committee (DEC) has asked United States of America (USA) based Hamra Oil Holdings to put its oil mapping exercise on hold until they present Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report to the committee.
DEC members wondered why the company was interested in the one month long planned oil mapping exercise in the district even before presenting the ESIA report to the technical members in the area so that they follow the project thoroughly.
In his contribution, District Fisheries Officer (DFO), Rodgers Makwinja, feared the exercise would destroy the fresh waters in Lake Malawi, thereby destroying 800 species of fish in the lake.
“Lake Malawi is known for its fresh water and enormous fish species most of which are not found anywhere else. Again, the water will lose its freshness due to its contamination with oil.
“Did you think of measures that will fully protect the environment?” he queried while emphasizing that water level fluctuation projections are at 472.972 meters which is lower than the expected.
He added he was afraid the exercise would leave Malawi unaccountable with its resources as it happened with Kayerekera Uranium Mine where he claimed people got the precious stones in the name of a survey.
But Malawi’s Mineral Expert, Grain Malunga, said the ESIA was conducted and reports were shared and certified. However, he was quick to say that he was not surprised because it has taken over two years for the contractors to come on the ground.
“Most of the officials are new in the district. We have taken their plea into consideration and we will come back shortly for a full consultative meeting,” he said.
He stressed there was no reason to panic because the mapping exercise will be done on the shore. Malunga explained that it will not need the contractors to dig big holes in order for them to extract the precious stones.
The impending oil and gas exploration programme is going to be executed on shore. The meeting was organised to tell the DEC on the stages to be taken. In fact the samples that will be taken from a point will be less than a kg, according to the official.
“The contractors will only use campus, small hummer and mapping the rocks how they appear on the surface, therefore, the environment will never be affected.
“It takes between 7 and 15 years to explore for a mineral up to a level it is mined, but this exercise is planned to last only for a month. You cannot go to an area to mine if you don’t know what is in the ground because the mineral is confined in certain areas, therefore, the samples help you to determine the mineral and at what locality,” said Malunga.
“Once that information is done you zero in and start drilling and reservations are made,” he added.
He said he understood the DEC’s worry that they would lose resources in the name of mapping as it happened at Kayerekera because a lay man cannot comprehend the processes unless they are fully sensitized.
He attributed the worry to the gap that exists between government and the people.
“The problem is that we as government did not communicate to people properly so that they understand phases that are going to be undertaken. A lesson is learnt hence there is indeed a need for another consultative meeting,” he stated.
The oil mapping exercises are to be conducted in Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Rumphi and Nkhotakota districts.
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