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Farmers raise oil drilling concerns

2020-11-12  John Muyamba

Farmers raise oil drilling concerns

John Muyamba  

RUNDU – A union representing the farming community in Kavango East has demanded an urgent audience with regional governor Bonifatius Wakudumo and representatives of a Canadian firm Reconnaissance Energy Africa that was given the go-ahead to conduct possible detailed oil and gas exploration in the region. 

The Kavango East Regional Farmers Union (KERFU) said they were not consulted over plans to conduct drilling activities in the region and feel they were left out in an activity that would affect them immensely. 
The union has also taken issue with recent comments made by Wakudumu, who told journalists it was too late for people to complain about oil drilling in Kavango. 

The Namibian reported in September that environmental commissioner Timoteus Mufeti had confirmed the ministry’s approval of an environmental impact assessment for exploration activities. 

The exploration activities will not cover the entire licence area and will be limited to areas situated 80 kilometres south of the Kavango River, 40 kilometres from the boundary of the Khaudum National Park, Mufeti told The Namibian. 

However, the union, which is demanding for a meeting tomorrow, said mining for oil and gas typically destroys habitats and contaminate underground water reservoirs, which in the end, they say, may compromise the productivity of agricultural land. 
The scheduled drilling is set to start at Kawe village south of Rundu next month. 

“We have requested the governor’s office to convene an urgent stakeholders’ meeting to be attended by Reconnaissance Energy Africa, traditional authorities, environmental commissioner and the Ministry of Mines and Energy,” said KERFU chairperson Adolf Muremi. 
“KERFU takes cognisant of the fact that oil and gas exploration might be good for our economy; however, the farming community whom we represent feels hard done by the statement, which by implication means farmers and those to be affected by oil and gas mining do not have a voice to express existing and developing matters regarding the said project.” 
Muremi stated KERFU have it on good authority that oil and gas mining and agriculture cannot co-exist in harmony over a long period of time. 

“There is literature and empirical evidence backing this conclusion. Where oil and gas mining has taken place, it has destroyed the habitat and contaminated ground-water reservoirs, which have rendered such areas agricultural unproductive and not conducive for human settlement,” he said. 
Muremi also said although there is an EIA in place, affected communities and farmers have not been consulted properly and of biggest concern is the exact drilling sites. 

Muremi added there is a disconnection between the EIA and the marketing material of the drilling firm with regards to this particular project. 
“The EIA refers to exploration-level intentions of drilling few test sites, whereas the marketing materials suggest that approvals are in place to proceed with conventional and unconventional (fracking) extraction of oil. Reconnaissance Energy Africa commitment and investment in this project suggest for commercial oil extraction/mining,” he said. 

The union further believes the project possesses a serious threat to the environment and agriculture for the farming units in the area because the subsistence farming and small-scale farming units entirely fall within the basin that the drilling firm was given licence for exploration. 
“At the meeting, the following should be presented: The Environmental Impact Assessment, list of people/institutions consulted and socio/economic impact, as well as test site map and the business model of Reconnaissance Energy Africa,” Muremi said.  

“It is against this background that KERFU is requesting the governor’s office to convene an urgent meeting before 13 November 2020 to discuss the matter widely in the wake of the threat to the agricultural sector of Kavango regions which the envisaged exploration possess.” 
Approached for comment, Wakudumo confirmed receipt of the farmer’s request. 

“Yes, I got their request for the meeting but we can only arrange it for next week Thursday, on the 19th. During the meeting with stakeholders, including the farmers union, we hope that things will be clarified,” he said. 
Attempts to reach representatives of Reconnaissance Energy Africa proved futile yesterday.

‘No fracking’
Over a month ago, the ministry mines also refuted allegations that fracking will take place in the Okavango Delta, assuring the public that all necessary environmental impact permits for the project are in place. 
The ministry also stated that planned drilling sites are not located along the banks of the Kavango River and that the drilling locations are very far from the Okavango Delta. 
They further stated that on record, no hydraulic fracking activities are planned in Namibia.

2020-11-12  John Muyamba

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