Large parts of South Africa's beautiful, but water-poor and ecologically sensitive Karoo region are under threat of being devastated by mining operations to extract natural gas using a controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'.
During fracking millions of litres of water, sand and numerous chemicals most of which are toxic, carcinogic as well as teratogenic (they include benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), diesel fuel, naphthalene (moth ball) compounds, boric acid, arsenic, poly nuclear organic hydrocarbons, only to name a few of 500-odd chemicals used), are pumped into boreholes at high pressure to release natural gas (called shale gas) trapped in layers of underground rock.
In the USA, where fracking has been used extensively, there have been hundreds of documented cases of this process resulting in:
- catastrophic drinking water pollution;
- air pollution;
- health concerns for humans and animals; and
- general environmental degradation.
Right now, Shell and other international and local companies are preparing to explore tens of thousands of square kilometres of land in South Africa for natural gas exploration by fracking. Most of the area under threat is already extremely water-stressed and can not afford any water to be either wasted or contaminated by the fracking process which, once in full production, may involve tens of thousands of boreholes and billions of litres of water.
There is a growing groundswell of opposition to the use of fracking in South Africa by a broad coalition of farmers, environmental organisations and ordinary citizens.
If you are concerned about the likely environmental and health impacts of natural gas exploitation in our country, please join us in adding your name to the following petition.
Find out more about fracking here:
Fractual - a South African website about fracking. Register on the site to receive a regular newsletter about the latest local and international developments.
Gasland - an Oscar-nominated documentary about fracking in the USAFracking up the Karoo