Whatever the government decides about fracking in the Karoo, a small group of volunteers has succeeded in broadening the debate about the controversy and showing what could happen if it was allowed to go ahead.
Jonathan Deal, chairperson of the non-profit organisation Treasure the Karoo Action Group, says fracking threatens to pollute scarce groundwater reserves in the semi-desert area and the government should apply the precautionary principle before granting any mining rights.
Pressure from his and other environmental lobby groups forced the government’s hand in placing a moratorium on fracking last year and setting up a task team to investigate shale gas extraction. The final report is due in July.
“We oppose fracking until it is proven that this is the best answer to South Africa’s energy and employment needs,” Deal said.
“We are urging the government to refocus on renewable energy sources, which are often forgotten in the rush to mine shale gas.”
He cannot fathom why the government is chasing fossil fuel: “Saudi Arabia is oil-rich, yet it is moving to renewables. South Africa’s solar irradiation levels are 2.5 times higher than Saudi Arabia’s. Along with Brazil, South Africa has the best usable sunshine in the world, especially in the Northern and Western Cape.
“The environmental fight is long, lonely and costly,” Deal said. “But had we not begun this campaign, international giants would already be exploiting this resource in spite of not fully understanding the technology or its impacts.”
The Greening judges said, even if the group did not succeed in stopping fracking, it had helped to make sure it would happen in a more responsible way.
Mail & Guardian June 29 to July 5 2012
Fracking in the Karoo, tree felling in Gabon…. the list is endless. Conservation seems to be last on the list when compared to the greed of us human beings. What we seem to forget is that no matter how much money we have, or how many jobs we can create, without a simple thing like water, life is not possible.