Indigenous groups oppose lucrative oil deal

The Okavango Delta. Image Courtesy of Gertrude M. Matswiri

NAMIBIA -A Canadian company wants to drill for oil in the Kavango Basin, despite environmental concerns. The Canadian company’s move to scour the Kavango Basin in the Kalahari desert for oil and gas has attracted opposition from indigenous groups who say the project threatens the ecosystem on which they depend.

The company, Recon Africa, has received the green light from the governments of Namibia and Botswana to begin the exploration for oil and gas in the 35,000 square kilometres in the watershed of the Okavango Delta, a Unesco-designated World Heritage Site.

ReconAfrica and the Namibian government, which holds a 10% stake in the project, say the development of a successful oil and gas industry will increase state income, provide jobs, energy independence  and the drilling of community water wells and infrastructure.

But the San first people of Southern Africa oppose the project and have petitioned both governments.

Opponents say the hunt for oil and gas threatens vital waterways in the arid savannas of Namibia and the Okavango Delta, home to the largest remaining elephant population, huge wildlife populations and a key water source for over a million people.

“Drilling for oil and gas will bring devastation to these communities,” Q7 Beckett, a San youth leader, told The Continent. He led a 1500km walk from Knysa to the Namibian consulate in Cape Town on February 1 in protest against the project. – The Continent/Mail & Guardian

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