RUNDU – Energy minister Tom Alweendo says Western countries have built their economies on drilling oil and gas, but today environmentalists from these nations have the audacity to tell Namibia not to use its resources to grow the local economy.
“They did drill just like we are drilling, and when their economy grew where it has grown, where they created the wealth they needed to have and have developed their people, now suddenly they are telling us, stop doing that,” Alweendo said yesterday during an information session of his ministry in Kavango East regarding the latest oil discovery and exploration activities that are currently ongoing in Namibia.
“Mind you, oil is being drilled in European countries as we speak. The Americans are busy drilling for oil as we speak. Why is it that we cannot do that, as long as we have the environmental management plan in place?’’ Both TotalEnergies and Shell made significant discoveries of light oil and associated gas off the coast of Namibia in recent months.
ReconAfrica’s oil exploration activities in the Kavango regions have been officially endorsed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources, after the Canadian-based company came under criticism from locals who claimed there was no consultation before the company started with its operations.
International environmentalists also claim the company has not fully disclosed how harmful its operations can be, nor the environmental impact it will have on the area.
However, Namibia’s offshore oil discoveries have been the cause of huge enthusiasm in recent months.
National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) chairperson Jennifer Comalie recently told Bloomberg in an interview that Namibia expects its biggest oil discoveries since independence to
help double its economy by 2040.
“At peak, these two discoveries could bring US$5.6 billion to a very small economy,” she stated. Alweendo said Namibians are worried about their livelihoods.
“We have got unemployment of 34% and youth unemployment of 40%, and you are being told don’t use the resource that you have. Even with the best environmental management in place, don’t use it because it is going to destroy the environment. I think this is really a bad Samaritan kind of environment where people say don’t do what we do, but do what we say,” he stated.
The politician added that Europeans, who have decided that they are not going to use fossil fuels like coal in the production of energy sources because they are polluting the environment, are suddenly opening the closed energy plants because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. They were opting for this arrangement because they don’t have the gas which they
used to get from Russia.
“Now, they are actually opening those very same plants they closed because they have a crisis. Is their crisis much more important than us having no employment?’’ he asked rhetorically. With regards to ReconAfrica, the minister emphasised that the exploration firm
is a potential investor in the oil and gas
industry, although they haven’t made a discovery yet. “We welcome them as part of us, as an investment. I know there are a number of concerns,” he continued.
“On the environmental issue, environmental management is part of our constitution. It is probably the only country that has the protection of the environment as part of the constitution. Apart from the Environmental Management Act as a law, that is in our constitution where we say we need to make sure that whatever it is that we are going to do, we should not destroy the environment.
And the rules of the game are that whoever is going to do the exploration, whether it is Recon or any other mining company, they need to make sure that they do have an environmental management plan on how they are going to minimise environmental degradation.”
Alweendo observed during the information session that nobody said drilling for oil and gas is not going to cause environmental harm.
It is going to happen, but one cannot say because of that Namibia should stop and do nothing at all. They should rather insist that those investors who are doing exploration and mining must have environmental management plans, as per the country’s legislation.
“Recon as an investor has followed the rules and has all the permits. If we want to stop these activities, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. The people who are arguing about the environment, we are saying we are also aware of environmental issues,’’ he noted.
Kavango East governor Bonifatius Wakudumo said outsiders cannot show up and decide to teach Namibia how to preserve their natural resources.
“I humbly request the various organisations, please, you cannot come today and lecture us about the environment. We fought for this country to liberate ourselves and put policies and mechanisms in place as to how we can preserve our natural resources. We don’t need to be told and to be lectured by anybody in whatever capacity,’’ Wakudumo stressed.
“I want to make it clear that as a region, we are on our journey to discover what is underneath the soil, and I want to make it clear that we have a big guest in the region in the name of Recon Namibia. We have welcomed Recon with open arms to do their explorations, and I must confirm and confess that there were proper consultations done before the commencement of their explorations.”