Bishop Luke Pato, the Bishop of Namibia of the Anglican Church called for a petition to halt the drilling for oil in the Kavango Basin.
“The process has not been an open one, with Namibians waking up to a mining venture that has already been signed and settled and there are many questions to be answered,” said Pato.
34 bishops and four Archbishop from around the world have signed the petition calling on the immediate halt to the drilling and was handed over to the Headquarters of ReconAfrica in Vancouver and emailed to the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise.
The Bishops said they are protesting because this exploration violates San rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people. It affects three regional UNESCO heritage sites, the Okavango Delta, the Tsodilo Hills and the San Living Cultural Landscape. “Unconventional oil and gas exploration and extraction will bring roads, heavy trucks, ribbon development and pollution,” they said.
Further more because water is a scarce and precious commodity in the country, the driest country south of the Sahara, the Bishops are concerned about the potential damage that ReconAfrica’s planned unconventional drilling will do to ground water have been express by a specialist form the Geological Survey of Namibia and the general public.
They also expressed that it is apparent that the deal between ReconAfrica and the government was concluded behind closed doors, plus the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted by ReconAfrica does not comply with the strict Namibian Government standards. “Concerns raised by local activities have been belittled and the media that is reporting on the story have been threatened with legal action,” they emphasised.
The Bishops explained that drilling in the Kavango Basin will fracture its geological structure and destroy the water system that supports this unique ecosystem and wildlife sanctuary and in doing so it will also be disruptive to the livelihoods of the indigenous people. Based on the principle of restorative social environmental justice, the Bishops call upon the international community to support Namibia and Botswana to develop renewable energy systems and help safeguard the precious Kavango ecosystem.
ReconAfrica has bought right to drill for oil in more than 35 000square kilometres of the Kavango Basin, which is an environmentally sensitive, protected area, which supplies water to the Okavango Delta a World Heritage and Ramsar Wetland Site a key Biodiversity Area one of the seven 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.