Residents of the southern village of Vaalgras in the //Kharas region are split on the question of whether a possible oil discovery in the area would benefit the community.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy recently sent a team to investigate the “unfamiliar content” discovered in the area. It is still testing the content alleged to be oil found while a company was drilling boreholes in the area. The ministry said it is rather premature to determine if it is indeed oil that was found.
However, the “unfamiliar content” has tongues wagging in the south with some dreaming of becoming super rich while others are worried about their way of life being disrupted if such a discovery is indeed made.
Sepholine Topnaar, who was born and raised in Vaalgras, said she was concerned about the community’s cultural values being compromised if oil would be discovered there.
“I am happy that these experts from government might come here and drill for oil for the benefit of our community in terms of employment creation and socio economic development but I wish they do not enter our ancestors gravesites and other cultural sites in the process,” she said.
Topnaar furthermore said the relevant ministry should rather first conduct an environmental and social impact assessment prior to extracting oil in Vaalgras.
“We grew up here but how will we answer to our children tomorrow if we have no historical background?” she asked.
She also questioned the survival of small stock farmers operating in the area, being relocated if the oil deposits are running through their farms.
“We are already experiencing a water problem here and if these poor guys must move to other areas, what will happen to them in the future?”
The resident added that new developments in terms of drilling oil are always welcome for them as long as a win-win situation can be reached around the table. “It is indeed a blessing from the skies for us if these tests to be carried out bear positive results,” Topnaar concluded.
Teacher George Daniseb, however, pronounced his happiness over this new development in their area. “I do believe our unemployed youth are now having prospects of getting employed as they are subjected to substance abuse and crime out of boredom,” he said.
Daniseb continued that this possible oil discovery might improve basic services like health and education as government cannot address all issues at the same time due to budgetary constraints.
“My sincere wish is that whoever comes to invest here will give our kids opportunities through tertiary and vocational training in order to equip them to become constructive residents, contributing towards the economic upliftment of our village,” he emphasised.
The teacher said another prospect will be that of a trust fund being established for those who lost their loved ones since 2019 due to the coronavirus and also for possible side environmental and other related effects once the said drilling has been completed for the benefit of future generations.
Vaalgras is located 60 kilometres northeast of Keetmanshoop.