Fracking protestors to walk the talk on Women’s Day

Fracking protestors to walk the talk on Women’s Day


Posted 08 August 2011, by Kimberly Yu, The Big Issue, South Africa,


Environmental activists will use tomorrow’s Women’s Day to lobby against oil giant Shell’s Karoo fracking plans by staging a protest called Gaswalk in Cape Town.

Climate Justice Campaign, the organisers of Gaswalk, say the protest on Women’s Day is significant, as they claim women and children will be the most negatively impacted should Shell be given the go-ahead to frack in the Karoo.

“Everyone has the right to clean air and water,” Climate Justice Campaign activist Marina Louw said. “[Fracking] affects the most vulnerable members of society, particularly women and children. Water is very scarce in the Karoo and fracking is water-intensive. Poor people don’t have a lot and they will be left to deal with the [environmental consequences] even after the corporations have left.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method in which drillers blast millions of litres of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into underground rocks to create cracks for gas and oil to escape.

In April, the South African government issued a moratorium on oil and gas exploration licenses in the Karoo that proposed fracking as an extraction method. The moratorium would stay in place until the results of a government-initiated task force investigating the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing in the Karoo are released.

However, environmental groups have expressed concern over a Department of Mineral Affairs announcement in July that the results of the task force could be released within weeks. They pointed to a long-term study by the US Environmental Protection Agency on the impact of fracking on drinking water, whose initial results are only expected next year. Doubts over the impartiality of the investigating panel were cast when it emerged that neither the Department of Water Affairs nor the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were represented.

“The task force is a complete sham,” Gaswalk organiser Kian Eriksen claimed. “There are no representatives from water or environmental affairs. The government is pretty silent on the matter, and they are just going through the motions of appeasing people concerned about it.”

He added: “[Through Gaswalk] we want to bring attention to the issue. The more people know about fracking, the more people will be active against it.”

Supporters of fracking have argued that it will create much-needed jobs in South Africa and will ease the country’s reliance on coal power. Royal Dutch Shell has exploration rights to the largest part of the Karoo and argues on its website that “fracturing has been used by oil and gas companies for over 60 years.”

Louw countered that there’s a difference between conventional gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. “This is a new untested technology. Where fracking has been done in the US the health of people in the surrounding area has been affected.”

“The risks involved are too great. Water in the Karoo is sacred and fracking is not worth it. The damage will be permanent,” Eriksen said. © The Big Issue South Africa


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