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New moratorium on fracking called for after research

 
 GATHERING EVIDENCE: TKAG chief executive Jonathan Deal yesterday called for government to place a new moratorium on shale gas exploration in the country. He is pictured here filming Ages EC consultant Wilbé Blay, who in March took water samples for research purposes on a farm outside Cradock. Picture: CINDY PRELLER

GATHERING EVIDENCE: TKAG chief executive Jonathan Deal yesterday called for government to place a new moratorium on shale gas exploration in the country. He is pictured here filming Ages EC consultant Wilbé Blay, who in March took water samples for research purposes on a farm outside Cradock. Picture: CINDY PRELLER

ANTI-fracking body Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG) has urged the government to place a fresh moratorium on shale gas exploration in the country.

In a letter addressed to President Jacob Zuma, TKAG yesterday called on him to reconsider government’s commitment to shale gas exploration in South Africa and presented new research on its dangers.

TKAG, supported by Afriforum, also criticised government’s lack of public participation and community involvement in its decision to go ahead with shale gas exploration in the Karoo.

If within 30 days Zuma had not responded to TKAG’s request, the body’s chief executive Jonathan Deal said, the group would either approach the public protector or pursue legal action.

Deal said the letter to Zuma offered government an opportunity to familiarise itself with new scientific evidence which raised fracking red flags, in order to avoid the need for “enormously expensive and embarrassing litigation”.

He said there was sound reason to put an immediate and indefinite halt to all government activity to promote fracking in South Africa because of the potential to cause environmental damage, threaten scarce water resources and negatively impact on agriculture, tourism and the general health and wellbeing of people in the Karoo.

The TKAG’s letter is addressed to Zuma and nine ministers. In it Deal calls for decisions made on fracking to be exercised by parliament and not the Mineral Resources Ministry alone.

He states that the Mineral Resources Department in February advertised public participation sessions in the Karoo, which had still not taken place.

The public participation attempts by companies that applied for exploration rights were also flawed because of language and distance barriers, he said.

Earlier this year while signing a research agreement with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University the then economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Mcebisi Jonas said renewable energy sources would start playing a significant role in the energy mix in South Africa. The research agreement with the Eastern Cape’s Economic Development Department was for a R16-million, three-year Karoo shale gas research project.

Departmental spokesman Sixolile Makaula said the DEDEAT-NMMU shale gas study would provide, on a regular basis, advice to the Eastern Cape government about the scientific and socio-economic findings and deliver an independent set of data to inform regional policy planning. “This study will help lay the foundation for a social licence to operate if we get to the point where we agree that the resource is both commercially viable and safe to extract,” Makaula said. – Cindy Preller


 
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