One of many large frack pits in the deep Kalahari, near the Khama Rhino Sanctuary, waiting to be filled with water. Photo: The High Cost of Cheap Gas

By Jeff Barbee and Mira Dutschke in Nata, Botswana, David Smith in Johannesburg
17 November 2013

(The Guardian) – Botswana has been accused of sacrificing the Kalahari, one of the world's most precious wildlife reserves, to commercial fracking while ignoring the concerns of environmentalists and communities who could lose access to scarce water.

Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, for the production of gas is the subject of fierce debate in America, Britain, South Africa and countries around the world, with green activists warning that it degrades land and pollutes air and water.

Yet for more than a decade, Botswana, lauded as one of Africa's most stable democracies, has been quietly granting lucrative licences to international companies to carry out fracking in the fragile Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR).

Some observers believe this is the most likely reason for President Ian Khama's government fighting court battles to prevent the Kalahari Bushmen, also known as the San, from returning to their ancestral land. The government denies this and says the prospecting under way should not be defined as fracking.

Keikabile Mogodu, an advocate for San rights, said: "We have heard nothing. We are in the dark. If fracking is done in the areas where people are, consultations should be done. The companies should talk to the people but nothing has been done. We are trying to follow it up with the ministry because fracking is dangerous and is going to destroy the balance of the ecosystem – it should be a debate in the media."

The CKGR is the second biggest wildlife reserve in the world, spanning 52,800 sq km. Energy companies that have raced for a share in recent years include the Australian-based Tamboran Resources and Debswana, a joint venture between the government and the diamond company De Beers.

The Bushmen said they had no idea their areas had been earmarked for drilling until they were shown a map during the making of a new documentary film, The High Cost Of Cheap Gas, revealing that half the game reserve has been allocated to multinationals. Seranne Junner, a lawyer who successfully defended the Bushmen's right to occupy their traditional lands within the CKGR, expressed surprise at the extent of land concessions. [more]

Botswana faces questions over licences for fracking companies in Kalahari

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