Keep fracking out of the Kavango Basin in the Kalahari Desert – activists
Namibian Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform must work with other ministries to introduce immediate moratorium on Canadian oil and gas company ReconAfricaoil exploration activities underway in the Kavango region in Namibia.
This is the claim of Save Okavango’s Unique Life (Soul), an alliance of Namibian and Southern African civil society organizations, activists and international groups promoting social, climate and environmental justice, who wrote an open letter to Minister Calle Schlettwein asking him to keep oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the Kavango.
ReconAfrica has been given the green light from Namibia and Botswana to explore the Kavango Deep Basin in the Kalahari Desert in search of oil and gas. Soul said ReconAfrica hoped to find the “last great oil field in the world”.
The letter, signed by nearly 80 groups, says ReconAfrica has consistently referred to “unconventional oil and gas” in its media briefings, public information brochures and communications with the media.
“Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is the technique used to extract so-called“ unconventional ”oil and gas resources. Although it has been denied that fracking occurs during current exploration activities in the licensed area (PEL 73), it is known that this technique must be applied to determine the extent of any oil or gas reservoir. shale gas and the viability of extracting those hydrocarbons, “it reads.
“If viable reserves of oil and gas are proven, fracking will be necessary to free fossil fuels from shale formations … Without what is called ‘stimulus drilling’, a company cannot determine if there is. has enough economically viable gas in the underground. Once companies make this positive decision, large-scale fracking will inevitably follow. “
The company, which has acquired the exploration rights to more than 35,000 square kilometers in the Okavango Delta watershed, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, said earlier this month that it did not intend to carry out hydraulic fracturing and continued to produce conventional oil and gas on its own. Namibia and Botswana maintain that no fracking will be carried out and that best environmental practices will be followed in the exploration phase.
But Soul’s letter calls on Namibian government to mandate multinational cross-border strategic environmental assessment in the Kavango to study the cumulative temporal and spatial effects of hydraulic fracturing.
It does not make sense to “potentially contaminate groundwater resources, harm viable ecosystems and disrupt existing economic activities” in Kavango for “foreign companies to make significant financial gains”, according to the report. letter.
ReconAfrica maintains that it uses an environmentally sustainable approach in all of its activities. “ReconAfrica is committed to working alongside traditional, local, regional and national stakeholders to appreciate and develop opportunities to maximize the development benefits of our conventional oil project. ”
Soul’s letter stated that the 25 to 30-year period that shale oil or gas extraction is expected to last will continue to introduce carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as well as methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Such activities “inevitably collide with the existing highly sensitive ecosystem and local communities in the targeted areas”, with negative effects that can be reflected decades or centuries after the departure of energy companies.
“The very real possibility that the Namibian fiscus will have to bear the costs of cleaning up and rehabilitating abandoned wells must also be considered,” as demonstrated by the United States, where many shale oil and gas companies have recently been operating. liquidated due to low gas prices and high operating costs.
Namibia enjoys less than half of the global average of 800mm of precipitation, with much of its water resources dependent on groundwater and, to a lesser extent, water extracted from the Kavango River.
The letter highlights a ReconAfrica research brochure released in July 2020, which states: “Water is a major concern in South Africa, an important requirement for unconventional play requiring fracture stimulation. Shell is considering conservation, recycling and brackish water so as not to compete with locals for freshwater resources. The situation for ReconAfrica is much better as surface rights and access are held by the government, and abundant groundwater supplies should be a source of building, not disruption, relationships with the local population. .
Soul said he was surprised by the company’s confidence in obtaining easy access to the large amount of fresh water “needed for hydraulic fracturing operations over the expected production period of at least 25 years.”
“We have the examples from the United States and have seen that farmers can be particularly affected by the demand for fresh water from the oil and gas industry, especially in drought-stricken parts of the country like our region.” , said Max Muyemburuko, president of Kavango. East and West Regional Conservancy and Community Forestry Association, in a statement.
“Why should Recon’s thirst for water for oil drilling and fracking be prioritized over the existential needs of local communities, farmers and wildlife?” “
The groups argue that the potential lowering of groundwater levels and contamination of water resources could significantly affect agricultural potential and the people of Kavango.
Ina-Maria Shikongo, of Fridays For Future Windhoek, said the development of shale in the Kavango Basin would contribute to more methane emissions, “raising questions about Namibia’s efforts to meet climate obligations under the Paris Agreement ”.