Three large energy companies, Shell, Bundu and Falcon have applied to explore for a natural gas, called Shale Gas, in South Africa. They want to explore tens of thousands of kilometres of land across the Karoo.
The way that they would explore for this gas is a process called Hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.
So what is it? Fracking is a process that creates fractures in rock to enable the extraction of natural gas and oil from rock formations deep below the earth’s surface. Deep boreholes are drilled and a toxic mix of, water, sand and chemicals (including diesel) is injected at extremely high pressure in order to make fractures in the rocks.
What’s the big deal? Fracking is under fierce government scrutiny in the US and has been banned by at least 160 communities in America. However the process of fracking is not regulated in South Africa and has never been used in this country before.
Fracking is a highly invasive process which could contaminate the surrounding environment, ground water and air. Billions (some reports estimate trillions) of litres of water would be used.
If the project goes ahead it could permanently damage the Karoo environment, cause catastrophic drinking water pollution and air pollution, be a health concern for humans and animals and cause general environmental degradation.
Our country is already water stressed, we do not need this highly invasive, polluting technology which will enrich the pockets of a few and contaminate our water suppliers.
On top of all of this, it would also mean hundreds of trucks visiting the site causing dust and noise pollution.
You will not be surprised to hear that Shell and Golder Associates (the company appointed by Shell to conduct its public participation process and compile its Environmental Management Programme) have publicly stated that fracking poses no risk to the environment!
GasLand is an excellent documentary about fracking in the US. It shows how people living in fracking areas are able to set the water coming out of their taps alight due to the toxic contamination of water from fracking!
Local residents, farmers and environmental groups across the country are up in arms and have formed a large opposition group called Treasure the Karoo Action Group or (TKAG).
What can I do?
You can sign their anti fracking petition here which calls for a moratorium on all on-shore exploration and exploitation of natural gas in South Africa, especially any operations involving hydraulic fracturing.
Even better, attend one of the public meetings being held across the country and voice your opposition:
Sutherland: Church Hall, Dutch Reformed Church, Piet Retief Road
Tuesday 15 March 2011 14:00 – 17:00
Beaufort-West: Rustdene Hall, 12 De Vries Street, Rustdene
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 14:00 – 17:00
Victoria-West: Town Hall, 78 Church Street, opposite the Apollo Building
Thursday 17 March 2011 10:00 – 13:00
Middelburg Eastern Cape: Grootfontein Agriculture Development Institute, Department of Agriculture, Big Lecture Room
Friday 18 March 2011 08:30 – 11:30
Cradock: Cradock Town Hall, No 1 JA Calata Street, Cradock
Friday 18 March 2011 14:30 – 17:30
Graaff-Reinet: Town Hall (big hall), Church Square, opposite Angel Park
Wednesday 23 March 2011 13:00 – 16:00
Port Elizabeth: Hume Park Caravan Park, Perrott Avenue, Humerail, Hume Park
Thursday 24 March 2011 17:00 – 20:00
Cape Town: The Sports Science Institute Cape Town, Boundary Road, Newlands (next to the WP Rugby pavilion)
Friday 25 March 2011 17:00 – 20:00
Go and watch Gasland - the documentary:
Gasland – Cape Town
Place: Labia on Orange, Cape Town
Time: Monday 21 March at 6:15pm; Tuesday 22 March at 8:30pm; Wednesday 23 March at 6:15pm
Ticket reservations: 021 424 5927
Gasland – JHB
Place: The Bioscope Independent Cinema, Johannesburg
Ticket reservations: http://www.thebioscope.co.za or 087 830 0445