Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has announced that fracking will go ahead in the Karoo.
The minister revealed this during a community engagement on shale gas development in Richmond, in the Northern Cape. Mosebenzi Zwane said a regulatory framework has been put in place to ensure that shale gas was “orderly and safely developed” through fracking but how could he be so sure?
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. The fluid mixture consists of water, sand and chemicals.
While shale gas could positively contribute to energy needs in South Africa, the fracking process could badly effect the environment and threaten water supplies. Fracking not only uses large amounts of water, but also pollutes underground water – which is the main source of water for towns in the Karoo.
The department of Mineral Resources has estimated that up to 50 trillion cubic feet of shale gas was recoverable in the Karoo Basin, especially in the Eastern, Northern, and Western Cape provinces. Minister Zwane claims it was in their interests to ensure all South Africans benefited socially and economically from the mineral wealth.
Turning to shale gas as an alternative energy source is a way to encourage South Africa to no longer be solely dependent on coal, yet totally ignores the negative effects that fracking will cause to our already stressed water sources. The government is focused on cost-competitive energy to reduce SA’s carbon footprint but at the cost of our water supply.
This decision has stirred up much controversy as our country is currently facing a water crisis. This is the exact opposite reaction of what South Africans expect our government to implement during a water shortage. While citizens are facing water restrictions and hoping for rainy days, or alternative ways to constitute for the lack of water our country is currently experiencing, the government has given the go ahead to fracking which threatens water supplies, in an already water shortage zone.
Fracking protest, Cape Town 2014.
Cape Town has severely felt the effects of water shortage as water restrictions have been implemented and are becoming stricter as time goes by. Water restrictions has affected some vital industries including the farming sector. A decision for fracking could not have been made at a worse time.
Water in the Karoo is under continuous stress due to pollution, depletion, industrialization, mechanisation and urbanisation. Fracking in the Karoo will only worsen the current water crisis. Water is an essential to living and cannot be the cost to pay for the economic gains which shale gas will bring to the country.