MORE than 100 people participated in a protest which began outside Pirates Lifesaving Club and made its way to uShaka Marine World. The protest highlighted the dangers of oil exploration off the coasts of Durban and Richard Bay. Bongani Mbatha African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - ENVIRONMENTAL groups have begun preparing legal paperwork to try and stop exploratory oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Durban and Richards Bay.

The announcement was made during a protest march by more than 100 people from various non-governmental organisations in the province held in Durban.

Desmond D’Sa, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said lawyers had been given a legal brief and were looking for loopholes in the public participation process, environmental impact assessment report, and other technical aspects of the gas and oil exploration that they are fighting.

“We are following the money trail to find out who is behind this big push to drill the ocean,” he said. D’Sa said they planned to engage politicians on environmental issues.

Earlier this year, a draft report released gave the go-ahead for exploratory drilling.

The march is the latest development in a fight between environmental organisations, Sasol, and Italian energy and exploration company Eni South Africa BV. Public hearings on the exploration activities have been tense as organisations expressed their disapproval due to the potential harm exploration may wreak on the ocean’s ecosystem.

D’Sa said the protest was the first of many. These would be extended nationally and at Sasol’s head offices.

Simone Dale, of Wild Oceans, said the non-governmental organisation was focused on marine protection and saw oil and gas exploration as a threat to the ocean.

“We want to send a message that we think oil and gas is a threat to ocean health,” Dale said.

Bhilo Mqondo, of KwaMthethwa, about 70km from Richards Bay, said mining activities in his area had had a devastating impact on the community and that he had joined the protest because he sympathised with people fighting oil and gas exploration. He said people should be consulted on projects being initiated in their areas. “We must be part and parcel of the decision making,” he said.

Sasol did not comment by the time of publication.

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