Karoo farmers, communities and Environmental NGO’s are up in arms over petrochemical giant Royal Dutch Shells recent bid to begin drilling the water-stressed Karoo in search of natural reserves of shale gas.
The company has submitted a bid to explore over 30 000 square km using a process called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ which if it goes forth could have a seriously harmful environmental and agricultural impact and poison the already limited and dwindling Karoo water supply.
Fracking, or hydrolic fracturing occurs by drilling boreholes 4 to 5 kilometers deep into underground shale rock formations and then introducing a mixture of chemicals, sand and millions of litres of water at high pressures. This fractures the geological structures and forces a free flow of shale gas which can be harvested and turned into energy. To those of you thinking that this is great news for South Africa and will bring the petrol price down- think again! Hydraulic fracturing has already been banned in a number of areas of the United States because of insanely harmful effects that it has on both the environment and the people.
Chemicals used in fracking cause cancer as well as a huge host of other diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimers and endocrine disrupting disorders. More frightening is the very real and dangerous possibility of contaminating the ancient Karoo water reserves and not only devastating the environment but destroying the farming community in the area. It takes only 1 litre of hydrocarbon gases like shale to pollute 1 million litres of water.
Hydraulic fracturing also requires millions of litres of water, in a semi-desert environment which has just comes out of one of the worst droughts in decades (who are these geniuses?). Fracking also produces vast volumes of flammable, toxic drilling mud which then has to be stored somewhere. Despite promises from Shell that they will take every precaution to ensure adequate Environmental Management Plans are put into place and the environmental impact is as minimal as possible people are angry and calls of protest are mounting.
The response at the public meetings held so far have been a resounding no, even though these meetings are simply a Shell PR exercise as farmers don’t have rights to minerals below their soil. Recently the DA has stood up calling for a dismissal of the project. Reuters has also announced a moratorium on future ‘fracking’ bids and exploration rights in the Karoo. We only have to glance across the pond to see the impact frack mining has had America to realise we want nothing to do with this project. Gasland, a documentary on ‘fracking’ produced and directed by Josh Fox, shows sickly livestock losing their hair and tap water which is contaminated by shale gas spewing forth in a fireball after a match is brought near it!
Is the Karoo not hot enough already? Shell has until the 18th of April to finalise the first round of its public hearings and Environmental Impact Assessments and Management Programme. We at Overlanding Africa have only one thing to say to you Shell- you can frack right off back to Deutschland if you think South Africans are just going to let you mosy on in and destroy one of our most beautiful natural treasures! Keep Discovering