By Peter Kenny – Ecumenical News
Anglican bishops across the world have signed a petition calling for an immediate halt to oil drilling in the Kavango Basin, in northern Namibia, in an area where elephants roam, by the Canadian Company ReConAfrica.
The drive for the petition began when Bishop Luke Pato alerted the Anglican Church that exploratory drilling for oil had commenced.
“The process has not been an open one, with Namibians waking up to a mining venture that has already been signed and settled. There are many questions to be answered,” said Pato, the World Council of Churches reported.
The search for oil and gas in the watershed of the world-famous, wildlife-rich Okavango Delta moved a step closer when a multimillion-dollar drilling rig from Houston, Texas, broke ground on the first test well in Namibia on Jan. 11, National Geographic reported.
Thirty-four Anglican bishops and three archbishops from around the world have signed the petition, which was delivered to the Namibian government at the Namibian Consulate in Cape Town, and at the headquarters of ReconAfrica in Vancouver, Canada.
ReconAfrica bought rights to drill for oil in more than 35,000 square kilometers of the Kavango Basin, an environmentally sensitive, protected area that supplies water to the Okavango Delta.
WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The basin is a World Heritage and Ramsar Wetland Site, a key biodiversity area and one of the seven natural wonders of Africa.
The region is home to the largest remaining population of African elephants, 400 species of birds and is a sanctuary for many other animals. It is protected under the protocol of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission.
“This exploration violates San rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people,” reads the petition. “Water is a scarce and precious commodity in Namibia, the driest country south of the Sahara.”
“ReconAfrica holds a 100 percent interest in petroleum exploration rights in NW Botswana over the entire Kavango sedimentary basin in Botswana. This covers an area of 8,990 km2 (2.2 million acres) and entitles ReconAfrica to a 25-year production license over any commercial discovery,” the company says on its website.
The ReconAfrica website, says, “It is estimated that the oil generated in the basin could be billions of barrels.”
VULNERABLE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Namibia is one of the countries’ most vulnerable to climate change, the petition notes.
“With almost unrivalled solar energy potential, extracting ‘billions of barrels of oil,’ makes no sense,” the petition notes. “Reducing carbon emissions is a global responsibility.”
The petition also cites an inadequate public participation process. “Concerns raised by local activists have been belittled and The Namibian, the national newspaper which broke the story, is being threatened with legal action,” the petition reads.
I notes that there has also been inadequate environmental impact assessment.
“Drilling in the Kavango Basin will fracture its geological structure and destroy the water system that supports this unique ecosystem and wildlife sanctuary,” reads the petition.
WCC acting general secretary Rev. Ioan Sauca expressed solidarity with the people of Namibia and with the Anglican community as they protest against damaging oil drilling in the Kavango Basin.
“We cannot sacrifice the rights of indigenous communities and destroy God’s gift of creation for oil,” said Sauca.
“If we are to meet the international goal of halving emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 , we must end our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy systems now.”
National Geographic reported that the rig that arrived at the Namibian port of Walvis Bay in Janunary, is retrofitted for drilling in the desert, had arrived in December on the 600-foot-long transport ship Yellowstone, also laden with at least 23 massive trucks for pulling loads, bundles of drill pipe, and seismic testing systems on trucks with off-road tractor tires.
Africa’s largest remaining herd of savanna elephants moves through ReconAfrica’s license area.
The company plans to conduct a seismic survey, which biologists say could disrupt the sensitive animals.