Salonga park sits on peatlands that scientists say could release massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if disturbed
DAKAR, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo’s oil minister on Thursday defended the country’s right to explore for oil anywhere on its territory after media reports that President Joseph Kabila approved drilling in Africa’s largest tropical rainforest reserve.
Oil minister Aime Ngoy Mukena declined to confirm a report in Germany’s Die Tageszeitung newspaper that Kabila had this month authorised exploration inside Salonga National Park, but he said that no land should be off-limits.
Salonga, a UNESCO World Heritage site, covers 33,350 sq km of the Congo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest. It is home to rare species including bonobos, forest elephants, dwarf chimpanzees and Congo peacocks.
The park in central Congo’s Cuvette Centrale also sits on peatlands that scientists say could release massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmsophere if disturbed.
Ngoy Mukena said the government was mindful of environmental considerations but was intent on developing its hydrocarbons sector.