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Boarding the wrong bus – The story on FRACKING

Fracking is a perfect example of what can be done to boost the economy of the country. It is estimated that the shale gas industry can contribute up to R200 billion a year to the country’s GDP and create more than 700 000 job opportunities. Surely that has to be mouth-watering stuff to government and potential investors, especially in the light of the high levels of poverty and unemployment in the country, and hence the need for more investment into the economy.

At the same time, fracking is a perfect example of what unsustainable development is about. At the moment fracking is under a moratorium in more than 140 countries in the world, simply because it is generally agreed that there are very serious environmental impacts associated with it.

Fracking is a means of extracting natural gas from deep underground. This entails drilling a few hundred meters into the ground to form a sort of a very deep well. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals are injected under tremendous pressure into a well. The pressure exerted by water fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow out more freely for extraction.

In a country where fresh water is very scarce it seems unthinkable that the use of such high quantities of fresh water for fracking can be sustained and justified. Furthermore, the chemicals used will inevitably have a detrimental impact on the underground water as well as on the environment in general. Sustainable development envisages that everyone has the right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, by ensuring that development and use of natural resources take place in a manner that is sustainable while promoting justifiable socio-economic development. Fracking is definitely not congruent with this notion.

The country has enough problems as it is in terms of environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and depletion of natural resources. We don’t want to add to these problems through fracking. There is a bottom line here. Fracking, if allowed, will eventually lead to serious problems no matter what ‘best practices’ are adopted in the process. It’s like boarding a bus to Johannesburg and hoping to end up in Cape Town. The bus goes to where it says it is going to and if one has a problem with that then one is in the wrong bus. The country does not have sufficient water resources to sustain fracking and the chemicals used in fracking. The resultant waste water will cause serious environmental damage. That is where the fracking bus is going to and if we want to end up elsewhere then we had better not board.

By Vumani Msimang- Environmental Lawyer at Venn Nemeth & Hart Attorneys.

Original story -