The formation of an alliance by four influential environmental NGOs adds momentum to the growing opposition to the controversial method of shale gas mining – which has been banned in more than 150 jurisdictions around the world.
The SAFE (Sustainable Alternatives to Fracking and Exploration) Alliance includes the Wilderness Foundation, Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG), the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the African Conservation Trust (ACT); and will act as a platform to oppose fracking and seek alternative, more sustainable development options for the targeted fracking areas.
“Current fracking applications cover half of the Karoo region and 18% of South Africa. Applications to explore are also spread throughout the foothills of the KZN Drakensberg, one of South Africa’s most important water catchments, including the Tugela river basin. We believe that there are alternative, sustainable activities to capitalise on in these areas which will be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable,” says Wilderness Foundation director, Andrew Muir. “It is incumbent on organisations such as the SAFE Alliance to oppose practices that are clearly not in the best interests of South Africa and its people,” says Muir.
The current focus of the SAFE Alliance is to utilise legal tools to oppose the issuing of any license in connection with fracking in South Africa. According to TKAG chairman, Jonathan Deal, “Government and the companies pushing fracking in SA must provide sufficient documentation to prove that the potential and actual environmental, social and economic impacts of the irreversible and controversial mining method have been fully investigated, identified and taken into account in any policy and decision making process.”
The South African Department of Minerals was expected to release its task team report on fracking to Cabinet by the end of July. However, the SAFE Alliance has raised concerns that the task team did not have adequate time and input from stakeholders to prepare a comprehensive report. “The task team was only issued with its mandate at the end of August 2011. A similar investigation is taking place in the US, and the organisations involved have specified that they will need four years just to investigate and deliver their preliminary report. This is due to be released in 2014,” says Deal. “Any report that excludes input from key ministries such as Transport, Tourism, Health, Agriculture and Rural Development will be intrinsically flawed.”
The SAFE Alliance also plans to build a public education and information campaign to inform rural communities and the South African public about their environmental rights, and in particular those associated with the impacts of fracking. “Fracking has been banned in 150 jurisdictions around the world. This means that millions of people have chosen not to licence fracking where they live, get their drinking water, grow their crops, produce meat and raise their children. The South African public should be given the same opportunity,” says Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO.
Also on the Alliance’s agenda is the fact that South Africa does not currently possess any fracking-specific laws, guidelines or even policies. “However, our comprehensive National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) dictates that any development must be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. A risk-averse and cautious approach must be applied to any proposed development which takes into account the limits of current knowledge about the consequences of decisions and actions,” says Francois du Toit, CEO of ACT. “If there is the remotest chance of contamination of our groundwater, we cannot in good conscience condone any activity, even exploration. This would be a crime against humanity in our water scarce country,” he adds.
The SAFE Alliance brings together the resources and expertise of four key environmental role-players to ensure effective opposition to shale gas mining.
Media Release for the Wilderness Foundation by Siyathetha Communications
SAFE ALLIANCE SPOKESPERSON: JONATHAN DEAL / 076 838 5150 / email@example.com
Wilderness Foundation: Matthew Norval /082 806 firstname.lastname@example.org
EWT: Yolan Friedmann / 011 372 3600 / email@example.com
ACT: Francois du Toit / 033 342 2844 / firstname.lastname@example.org