LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change, this week strongly denounced Malawi government’s decision on oil exploration in Lake Malawi, and argue that the country has outdated laws to safeguard all stakeholders during the exercise.
The committee observed that the absence of a national petroleum policy and its outdated Act, will not be safe for Malawi to go ahead with the process.
Welani Chilenga, the committee’s chairperson told the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, department of Mines and Parks and Wildlife officials, when they appeared before it, at Parliament building. The committee said that government was taking a dangerous path on the matter.
Chilenga then accused government of breaking the law by pursuing the matter further; they said President Peter Mutharika has been misled on the issue.
“We don’t have a policy in place and we are using an outdated law, the 1983 Petroleum Act, which vests all petroleum products in the hands of the life president. The committee is not comfortable with this matter the way government is handling it,” Chilenga said.
But Chief Mining Engineer, Cassius Chiwambo, was adamant and defended oil exploration by arguing that the said outdated law would guide the exercise.
Chiwambo said that government decided to go ahead with the oil exploration giving due consideration that licences were already issued to prospective oil mining companies.
“It would be unfair to tell the investors to stop the exploration at this stage. We acknowledge the absence of the petroleum policy, but we have the 1983 Petroleum Act at hand, which the same Parliament approved.
“The ministry will ensure that the policy is developed, before the end of the year and that investors are warned that they may have to make changes in their operations to reflect the new policy, should it be adopted,” Chiwambo assured.
The committee’s stand comes barely a month after President Mutharika assured the general public of the Lake’s safety upon the start of the exploration exercise to completion, and that on-shore clean technology equipment will be used.
Mutharika told the nation, saying “Let’s all take care of the Lake. This is our Lake, and when I say our Lake, I mean the whole of it. Let nobody make a mistake to try to change this ownership, which has been there for the past 124 years.
“We must keep the Lake clean for its use as a heritage site. Let me also assure you that if we decide to drill oil from it, we will use some on-shore modern technologies that prevent the oil from polluting the Lake. Therefore, don’t be afraid that the Lake will be polluted,” the President said.
For several years, Malawi and Tanzania, have been entangled in an ownership for some parts of the Lake, particularly the northern area with Tanzania stating claim to it. This resulted into cross-border war of words, especially once Malawi announced its intention to explore oil in the Lake.