Anglican bishops wants oil drilling in Namibia stopped
RUSTENBURG - Anglican bishops said on Monday that Namibians had been blind-sided into a deal for exploratory oil drilling in the ecologically sensitive Kavango Basin.
However, the government of Namibia says the fears are unfounded.
In a statement, the bishop of Namibia, Luke Pato, said the Synod of Bishops has drawn up a petition calling for an immediate halt to the drilling.
"The process has not been an open one, with Namibians waking up to a mining venture that has already been signed and settled. There are many questions to be answered,“ Pato said.
He said Canadian oil company ReconAfrica has bought rights to drill for oil in more than 35,000 square kilometres of the Kavango Basin in Namibia.
"This environmentally sensitive, protected area supplies water to the Okavango Delta, is a World Heritage and Ramsar Wetland Site, a key biodiversity area and one of the seven natural 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."
Thirty-four bishops and three archbishops from around the world have signed a petition calling for an immediate halt to the drilling, including the archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba.
The petition was also signed by Lori Ransom, interim executive director: Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, because the oil-drilling company is based in Canada.
The petition was handed over to the government of Namibia, the Namibian consulate in Cape Town, the headquarters of ReconAfrica in Vancouver and the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, he said.
The bishops, among others, protest that the exploration violates San rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Daily newspaper The Namibian reported on Monday that Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta said the concerns of community members and environmental activists about the possible negative effect of the unconventional oil exploration in the Okavango Basin were premature and confusing.
He said those claiming the government has allowed the Canadian oil company to undertake hydraulic fracturing activities were misleading the public.
He told the daily that the government has observed and confirmed that the operations of the Canadian company were so far in full compliance with the environmental clearance certificate conditions issued to it and there were no deviations from the approved environmental management plan.
A silent protest against the drilling will be held on the steps of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Thursday.
- African News Agency