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

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years 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.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs