Activists march through the city centre to protest against fracking by Shell in the Karoo.

NEO MADITLA and SAPA

about 80 demonstrators wearing gas masks and lab coats to emulate scientists from oil company Shell have protested in Cape Town against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas in the Karoo.

Shell SA is punting shale gas as an affordable alternative to coal, nuclear and renewable energy industries, and wants to explore 90 000km² of the Karoo.

Fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to release the gas.

The march was initiated by photographer Kian Erikson in partnership with the Climate Justice Campaign and Earthlife Africa CT. Outside the Natural History Museum in the Company’s Garden in the CBD yesterday, the protesters held up banners reading “Stop fracking with our water”, “Frack off”, “Fracking poisons” and “Get the $hell out of the Karoo”.

As the protesters marched past the Shell garage on Orange Street they put anti-fracking stickers on the walls and handed out pamphlets to staff and customers.

The protesters claim fracking is causing massive contamination of water supplies and is mostly affecting women and children who live in the areas where it takes place.

The Climate Justice Campaign’s Marina Louw said fracking would destroy people’s livelihoods.

“… And just like the people in Nigeria, local people will not benefit financially from the process. A lot of the waste water from fracking is being discharged into rivers and the chemicals are leaching up radioactivity underground. Water becomes your blood plasma and spinal fluid.

“The most vulnerable people are rural women and children because they live in these areas and get their water from where fracking water is dumped.”

Muna Lakhani of Earthlife Africa said: “The quality of our environment is fundamental to the quality of life of our people. Our constitution guarantees every South African the right to a clean, healthy environment.

“The hydraulic fracturing planned in most of South Africa’s land mass, from the Karoo to the Drakensberg, directly threatens the quality of our air and water, and thereby the health and wellbeing of our people.

“Resource extraction has made corporations and an elite rich, but local communities remain poor, and are most at risk from the environmental destruction caused by fossil fuel extraction.”

A protester dressed as Charlie Chaplin did not answer when asked about the significance of his costume. Instead he raised his cane and mimed a choking motion. He pulled a gas mask over his face and coughed before joining the protesters shouting: “Fracking no, clean energy now and forever.”

Louw said they were planning another protest for the end of next month. “All I know is we cannot keep silent. I have never been an activist. A lot of people here are not activists.”

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