In the search for oil and natural gas, Africa’s third largest lake has become a political battlefield.
It’s not so much the water that Tanzania and Malawi are quarreling about, but rather, what lies beneath it. That’s because the sediments beneath Lake Malawi, or Lake Nyasa as it is known in Tanzania, are rumored to hold large reserves of oil and natural gas—reserves that both countries hope to exploit.
But there is a significant snag. While the lake borders Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, a colonial-era document gives ownership of the entire lake to Malawi. Tanzania, however, claims that 50 percent of the lake lies within its territory, and has requested that Malawi halt exploration for oil. Malawi has so far refused.
The countries’ presidents are expected to meet within the next week to discuss the issue, and Malawi’s President Joyce Banda has said her country will avoid war. But even if the two leaders can come to an agreement, other challenges could arise. As local media outlet the Tanzania Daily News wrote: “[The lake] is home to over 2,000 different fish species and oil exploration on the freshwater lake will likely rile environmentalists who fear it will disturb its ecosystem.”
With growing water scarcity, which has been linked to global security issues, the large volume of freshwater contained in Lake Malawi may soon become more valuable than any hydrocarbons hidden in its depths.
What are your thoughts on the Lake Malawi border dispute? Have any opinions on oil exploration in one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes? Comment below or send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Circle of Blue Reporter
Codi Yeager-Kozacek is a reporter for Circle of Blue based out of Enterprise, Alabama. She studied journalism and biology as an undergraduate at West Virginia University and graduated summa cum laude from the university’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism. She has done research at the College of the Bahamas Gerace Research Center on San Salvador Island, Bahamas, and her study on coastal dune plants is currently pending publication in the Bahamas Natural History Proceedings. Her interests include food security and ecology. She co-writes The Stream, Circle of Blue’s daily digest of international water news trends.
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