Nkhotakota District Executive Committee (DEC) has asked United States of America (USA) based Hamra Oil Holdings to put on hold its oil mapping exercise until it presents an 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 before presenting the ESIA report to the technical members in the area to enable them to follow the project thoroughly.
In his contribution, Nkhotakota district fisheries officer Rodgers Makwinja feared the exercise would destroy the fresh waters in Lake Malawi, thereby destroying 800 species of fish in the lake.
He said: “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?”
Makwinja also emphasised that water level fluctuation projections are at 472.972 metres, which is lower than the expected.
But local minerals 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.
Said Malunga: “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 there was no reason to panic because the mapping exercise will be done on the shore.
Malunga, a former minister of Energy and Mines, said the contractors will not need to dig big holes to extract the precious stones.
The oil mapping exercises are to be conducted in Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Rumphi and Nkhotakota districts.
There has been growing interest in the exploration of oil in Malawi with several companies on a waiting list following the award of contracts to several companies, including Rak Gas, MB45 (Malawi) Limited and Hamra Oil (Malawi) Limited.
In March this year, President Peter Mutharika signalled his administration’s resolve to proceed with oil exploration in Lake Malawi amid pockets of resistance from environmentalists.
Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining head of oil and gas section Cassius Chiwambo is on record as having said buffer zones have been created around designated areas of Lake Malawi National Park which is a World Heritage Site.