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Oil and gas exploration alarm bells for Okavango Delta

Each year, the Okavango Delta is turned into paradise for animals, also driving a major tourist industry. Picture: Wynand Uys on Unsplash

Wildlife lovers and those who hold the natural world close to their hearts will be concerned to hear that a licence for gas and oil exploration in the wilderness region of northern Namibia and Botswana has been flagged by environmental watchdogs.

National Geographic reported that 13,600 square miles of the countries has been licensed for exploration by ReconAfrica, a petroleum exploration company with offices in Africa but headquartered in Canada, with the intention to open “a new, deep sedimentary basin”, ie a new oil and gas field.

The company’s plans to dig oil test wells in Namibia have already been approved by that country’s government, which is keen to cash in on the commercial and development opportunities, and possible job creation.

Magic hour at the Delta. Picture: Jose Mizrahi on Unsplash

Environmental activists and community leaders in the affected areas (Kavango Basin) have expressed concerns about the possible impacts on the environment, tourism, water quality and wildlife, and about the way the first Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out.

“ReconAfrica’s initial goal, already approved by the Namibian government, is to drill test wells roughly one and a half miles deep in the country’s northeast starting in December 2020 to determine the presence of exploitable oil and gas. Experts who have reviewed the Namibian environmental impact assessment for the test wells point to serious problems in the way it was carried out. Meanwhile, approval for a drilling permit in the licensed area in Botswana is under way,” the Nat Geo article says.

Elephants make use of the abundant seasonal waters. Colin Watts on Unsplash

The area concerned is home to at least 200,000 people and abundant wildlife, including elephants which move about the area earmarked for exploration and the Delta, utilising the waters of the Delta following seasonal flooding. Needless to say, many species are dependent on the Okavango Delta and its annual bounty when water floods from its source in the Botswana highlands.

More Meander Chronicle environmental news here

Oil and gas infrastructure involves “the construction of roads, pipelines, and buildings” that “could all negatively affect important animal habitat, migratory pathways, and biodiversity,” according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Read the full NatGeo article on the Kavango Delta here

“Given the nature of this basin (the Kavango Basin) and the tremendous thickness, this is pretty much a no brainer … It will be productive and I am expecting high-quality oil.” – Dan Jarvie, WorldWide Geochemistry LLC, in an article on the ReconAfrica website.

Read the full article here

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UPDATE: Temporary sawmills in Notties closed