President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday signalled his administration’s resolve to proceed with oil exploration in Lake Malawi amid resistance from environmentalists.
Speaking in Mangochi during the 2017 World Water Day commemoration and National Water Conference, Mutharika declared that “as a country, we need to move forward” while protecting the environment.
In an address monitored on taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), the President said: “Those who worry about our plans to explore and drill oil have no reason to fear. If we decide to drill oil in the lake, we will ensure we use on-shore clean technology. We value our lake and we will ensure we implement measures to protect it, at all cost.”
Mutharika’s remarks were in apparent reaction to some environmentalists who fear that oil exploration could affect Lake Malawi’s ecosystem.
In an interview to elaborate on the onshore technology the President hinted at, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining head of oil and gas section Cassius Chiwambo said the department is currently doing the paperwork with companies awarded exploration licences in 2011. They include Rak Gas, MB45 (Malawi) Limited and Hamra Oil (Malawi) Limited.
He said the actual drilling is expected to start in under five years.
Said Chiwambo: “Environmental impact assessment is underway and we have made sure that all companies that have been issued with licences have assured us that they will use on-shore technology.
“While others might argue that Malawi was and is still not prepared to start exploration of oil and gas, on our part as government, I can say that the opposite might be true.”
He explained that before granting the initial licences, Malawi had already put in place a Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act approved in 1983. In addition to the 1983 law, the country also reviewed the Regulation to the Act in 2009.
He said as a way of ensuring that the licence holders have some specified ‘obligations’, government developed a 13-page licence format carrying some special conditions which were binding once the licences are awarded to the investors.
To date, according to Chiwambo, buffer zones have been created around designated areas of Lake Malawi National Park, which is a World Heritage Site.