The Ugandan Government has granted approval to 16 companies to bid for oil exploration rights for 6 blocks in an environmentally sensitive area around Lake Edward, but it has sparked a fierce opposition.

Around 60 local and international environmental groups said the country should not license an oil exploration block close to neighbouring Congo’s Virunga National Park because drilling would harm the park’s ecosystem, Reuters reported.

Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest national park with a wide diversity of habitants and exceptional biodiversity, including the nearly extinct mountain gorillas, AllAfrica.com published.

World Heritage Center of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) director Kishore Rao wrote to the ambassador in 2015 claiming that drilling around Lake Edward will destroy the fragile ecosystem.

Companies that secured approvals include Nigeria-based Oranto, Russian firm Telconet, and RT Global Resources, according to Offshore Technology.