Dear NCE Members and friends,
By now you will be aware of the EIA that has been approved for shale oil and gas exploration in the Kavango Basin for which an Environmental Clearance Certificate has been issued. This has featured in the printed media and on our NCE Facebook page and other social media outlets. The EIA report is available on the EIS here: http://the-eis.com/elibrary/sites/default/files/downloads/literature/APP_0016%20EIA%20Report%20Report%20for%20Drilling%20in%20PEL%2073_Copy.pdf. The EIA does not mention the work “fracking”. It states that two (possibly three) deep wells will be drilled to explore for shale oil and gas. These wells are far from the river and outside parks and conservancies. These are exploration wells as the proponent, Reconnaissance Energy Africa, has no confirmation that there is indeed any shale oil or gas in the basin. We have not yet been able to get hold of the specialist studies for the IEA, nor the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). We have had a number of specialists review the EIA. A number if concerns have arisen, but we would like to see the specialist studies before giving formal comment.
There are a number of issues of potential concern:
(i) Why does the EIA make no reference to possible future fracking – is this deliberately disingenuous and an attempt to keep the matter secret from the public (and perhaps even from government)? The marketing and fund raising material put out by ReconAfrica was explicit about fracking – and they claim to have the father of fracking on board for this work. Indeed, their marketing material is way out ahead of what is actually approved in terms of the exploration environmental clearance certificate. They imply that all clearances have been obtained. In reality, if commercially-viable shale oil and/or gas is found in the Kavango basin, a full and lengthy EIA process lies ahead. This looks like a false sales pitch to potential investors. They have since removed much of this marketing material from their website.
(ii) We are concerned that a highly sensitive area, with limited water, as part of the Okavango basin and Okavango Delta with designated World Heritage and RAMSAR Wetland status, and with a land zonation committed to a five nation transboundary wildlife and tourism management and development zone, should even be considered for fracking. But I reiterate – our government might not be aware that this is the intention of ReconAfrica as it is not mentioned in the EIA.
(iii) Given our national and global climate change agenda, and the dramatic impact that climate change will have on biodiversity, human health and livelihoods, water supply, intensity and frequency of disasters and many other aspects of life on earth, seeking more fossil carbon resources rather than focusing on renewables and energy efficiency seems a very retrospective approach – particularly if this is associated with largescale ecosystem destruction through fracking.
In conclusion, I want to emphasise – this is exploration. No permissions have been given for anything more. There may be no oil or gas in the basin. But at the same time, it would be important for people to understand the implications of fracking through a detailed scientific assessment. I am therefore pleased to share the report on Shale Gas Development in the Central Karoo: A Scientific Assessment of the Opportunities and Risks
which is available on the EIS here: http://the-eis.com/elibrary/node/23174. This a lengthy report, but clearly laid out in thematic chapters. It provides valuable background information. It is also important for our colleagues in the Office of the Environmental Commissioner to have access to this information, as this is probably the first time that we in Namibia are exposed to an assessment possibly involving fracking.