News / Africa

Botswana Admits to Allowing Fracking After Documentary

FILE - Foreign tourists in safari riverboats observe elephants along the Chobe River bank in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana, March 2005.
FILE - Foreign tourists in safari riverboats observe elephants along the Chobe River bank in Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana, March 2005.
Anita Powell
Botswana’s government has admitted to allowing fracking in the southern African nation after a documentary exposed operations the government had previously denied. Some of those gas extractions are happening in environmentally sensitive areas, including a major national park that is home to one of the world’s largest elephant herds. The documentary maker says his work is not anti-fracking, but he wants Botswana’s people to have the opportunity to debate the issue with their leaders.
 
Botswana is one of the world’s most sparsely populated nations, with just 2 million people across a landmass slightly larger than Kenya.

For years, U.S. filmmaker Jeff Barbee said, the government of the southern African nation has used that space to quietly grant oil and gas concessions in remote areas. And - in a surprising move for the nation considered to be Africa’s least corrupt - activists claim they haven’t told anyone about it.

Fracking admission

For the last week, Botswana’s government has denied allowing fracking. Late Wednesday, though, the government issued a statement conceding that “Permission has, however, been given in some instances in the past for the use of industrial explosives in sub-surface fracturing, which some may view as a type of 'fracking.’”
 
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique that uses high-pressure water and chemicals to break underground rocks and release oil or gas. Critics of fracking say it is noisy, that it creates air pollution and can contaminate water. Supporters say it is safe and creates jobs, while also addressing energy needs.
 
Barbee is from the U.S. state of Colorado, which has become a fracking battleground as the process has grown massively in recent years. Barbee maintains that his soon-to-be-released documentary, The High Cost of Cheap Gas, is not anti-fracking.
 
“We are not focusing on the idea that fracking is good, or bad, or dangerous. We are trying to say that there is a real dialogue that needs to happen around the facts and the dangers associated with this procedure. Particularly in a rural landscape where we have people totally dependent on groundwater for their water supply, like in Botswana,” he said.
 
The government says that concessions have been granted in Chobe National Park, home to the world’s largest herd of migrating elephants. Another concession site, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, is home to the San people, who are considered to be one of the world’s oldest cultures. The San have been locked in a battle for years with Botswana’s government over land they claim as ancestral property.

Open dialogue

Richard Lee of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, which financed the film, said the bigger issue here is transparency.
 
“This is the story about gas concessions across a country that people in that country don’t know anything about. So, yes, the impact on the San is important, but so is the impact on other people in the country, and the nation as a whole," said Lee. "And that’s why everyone in the country needs to have the right information, the latest information, so they can decide for themselves what’s in the best interests of Botswana.”  
 
Barbee said many pro-fracking studies and films have been underwritten by the fracking industry.

“It seems that this is not really a two-sided issue at all," he said. "There are the facts behind this process put forward by independent researchers unconnected to the gas and oil industry, and those are the real facts. And there are then the unconfirmed reports put forward by great economic think tanks… that receive money from the oil and gas industries. And as a journalist, it’s very important to focus only on the established facts put forward by independent researchers.”
 
The film will be shown at a special event in Johannesburg next week. Barbee also said that producers will put together a website and press packs for journalists. Ultimately, he said, he just wants the people of Botswana to have a chance to decide for themselves.

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid