120 NGOs oppose oil search in key forest

120 NGOs oppose oil search in key forest

Fuelled by the unprecedented discoveries in Turkana, the State has been in a rush to dish out oil prospecting licences to eager international companies. Indeed, the exploration windfall has continued without question.
For instance, Block L16 in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kilifi County, was given out to Texas-based CAMAC Energy.
But now the development faces strong headwinds.
An attempt by CAMAC Energy to carry out seismic studies in the pristine forest has struck unprecedented disapproval. Local residents have received the support of dozens of conservation groups drawn from different parts of the world to oppose oil exploration in this sanctuary for birds and mammals considered endangered.
Conservation groups from 120 countries worldwide are heaping pressure on Kenya to stop the exploration in this particular area. This development comes even as CAMAC Energy has announced plans to cancel the seismic studies. “In keeping with our tradition of involving and listening to all stakeholders, we have decided to cancel seismic operations …” CAMAC Kenya managing director Augustin Nkuba says. He didn’t reveal the next move.
But elsewhere, in a letter to Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu and copied to several senior State officials dated November 19, 2014, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) based in United Kingdom, says the forest shouldn’t be tampered with because it is home to a host of threatened species.
(RSPB is a partner of BirdLife International, an assembly for 120 national conservation organisations, including NatureKenya, from around the world)
“As you are aware, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is an area of outstanding importance for biodiversity and contains endangered and threatened species. In recognition of this, it has been designated by the Kenya government as a National Forest Reserve and part of it has been designated a Nature Reserve,” said Mike Clarke, RSPB chief executive in a letter copied to Cabinet secretary for Energy and Petroleum Davis Chirchir, Kilifi Governor, as well as respective directors of Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service and National Environment Management Authority.
“This forest is the largest intact natural coastal forest in East Africa and contains an exceptionally high degree of endemism – species that are found nowhere else in the world – as well as other species of conservation concern such as elephants. The Kenya Forest service has documented at least 24 rare and endemic bird, mammal and butterfly species.”
The organization argues that seismic studies in the area would endanger the reserve “both through direct impacts (destruction of vegetation along the transect lines, disturbance to wildlife) as well as indirect impacts” that include access to the hitherto protected reserve by poachers and other illegal users.
“I would be grateful if you would ensure that CAMAC and their subcontractors respect international best practice and Kenyan legislation in this case and exclude the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve and high conservation value areas from oil and gas exploration.”
Apart from Block L16, CAMAC Energy has 100% interests in Block L1B, Block L27 and Block L28. In media interviews, the company has insisted that it possess the requisite clearance from the government, to carry out the seismic studies.

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