Botswana ignorerer oprindelig befolkning i energispørgsmål

Laurits Holdt

Myndighederne i Botswana har givet en række energiselskaber lov til at udvinde methangas i Kalahariørknen ved hjælp af ”fracking”, der forurener kraftigt og kræver store mængder vand. Den oprindelige befolkning, San, er dog ikke blevet hørt.

While the debate about fracking in Africa is focused on South Africa, the Botswana government has been developing plans to produce natural gas that will have grave consequences for the environment and peoples living in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve — the ancestral home of the San people, reports ngo IWGIA – International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs on its website.

The government of Botswana has quietly been granting licenses to international companies such as South Africa’s SASOL, Australian-based Tamboran Resources, Anglo American, Tlou Energy, Kalahari Energy, and Exxaro. The San people have not been informed or consulted about the extraction of natural gas that is taking place in their traditional territories.

What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a method of extracting natural gas (methane) from coal beds in the ground by fracturing shale rocks to release the gas. Drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure fractures the rocks and releases natural gas. Bi-product from the extraction is pumped out into the local environment. The method is therefore highly toxic and the full consequences for human and wildlife are yet to be discovered.

However resent studies show that chemicals like BPA, ethylene glycols and other endocrine disrupters, used for fracking, cause long-term genetic damage across generations. The associated air pollution, called ground-level ozone, also causes severe lung problems in children.

A violation of rights

Fracking requires vast amounts of water for creating the toxic fracking fluid that is used. Water is a scarce resource in the Kalahari Desert. By using water from the desert the water table in the area is in danger of dropping significantly. In America, where the process was pioneered, water tables have dropped more than 30 meters.

The lowering of water tables in the desert will cause serious threats to the lives of the San people and violate their right to water. In the Central Kalahari Game Reserve using what little water is available could very well mean the difference between having access to water one day and not the next.

Documentary reveals fracking

The documentary The High Cost of Cheap Gas links the southern African context with the American experience to inform the critical debate of the process of fracking.

Trailer for dokumentarfilmen The High Cost of Cheap Gas:

The documentary explores the potentially high costs of fracking through the lens of water rights, human rights and environmental costs. And it looks into the impact of the effects of the chemicals used in fracking on fertility, childhood development and the long-term health of the region.

In particular, there are fears that the hard-won right of the San to live on, and access water from, their ancestral land will be threatened by the coal bed methane concessions in and around the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Indeed, according to the film, drilling is already taking place within the confines of the world-famous reserve.