Over the past week, I have been engaging with respected colleagues and a few friends about the pro's and cons of fracking - the process of extracting shale gas from the ground using hydro power. Not that I normally get involved in debates of this kind, but this issue has come to the fore again after the recent announcement by the SA Government that the moratorium on shale gas exploration has been lifted.
The search for shale gas in our Karoo and Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands regions is set to 'take-off' now that the moratorium has been lifted, and while many see this as merely approval to search for the gas deposits - and a calculation on how much they will deliver and at what cost, this is South Africa! What that means is that while the intentions may be open and honest - just as the packet describes, reality has shown that this is the first step in a complicated game of subterfuge to ensure that the exploration companies get their licences in spite of community objections. The privileged few with contacts on the inside of government and big business, will ultimately become very rich over this process, while the environment will be damaged beyond our wildest expectations for generations to come.
There is no argument from me about the need for alternate energy solutions to our country's needs, but this is not one of them. How can destroying and contaminating scarce underground water reserves be good for anyone - irrespective of the energy solutions that they bring? While proponents of fracking are quick to point out that the water aquifers of the Karoo deliver only brackish water which is unsuited to human consumption, the reality is that studies have shown at least 45 communities that depend on this unsuitable' supply for their
survival. Others say that we need to compromise in the interests of our economy and place our energy needs first, but how do we deny even a drop of water to those that desperately need? How can we even consider being so cavalier about the ability of future generations to meet even their most basic water needs?
There is no doubt that this country needs to find alternate sources of energy for the future, but is this the way to go? With solar, nuclear and even hydro power opportunities at our feet, can we really even begin to gamble with our future water reserves? Can we stand by and 'trust' government about their plans without raising the volume of our discussions about sustainability? No, this is the time to become aware of the dangers that have clearly been shown to us by other countries across the globe, and understand that shale gas exploration and exploitation through fracking is unacceptable and not worth the risk.
We can’t afford nuclear solutions purely because we don’t have the money. Why then would we risk our water reserves simply because it’s the cheaper option?