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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs