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Government must reject fracking proposals to protect regional food security

Home Agriculture Government must reject fracking proposals to protect regional food security

By: Janse Rabie – Legal and Policy Executive, Agri SA

AGRI SA has submitted its comments on new draft regulations to govern hydraulic fracturing – or fracking. Given the risks entailed in fracking for the country’s scarce water supply, we urge government to withdraw these regulations and reject all plans to permit fracking in South Africa.

Allowing fracking in South Africa will have a devastating impact on the country’s ability to produce food. There is an abundance of scientific research indicating that hydraulic fracturing poses an extreme risk to the environment, especially to water resources. This is exacerbated by our limited current knowledge about the long-term consequences of hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing requires the use of vast amounts of water, both during exploration and production. Owing to the chemicals used in the process, water used during exploration and production of petroleum also becomes contaminated during the process. This creates a significant pollution risk to deep and shallow underground water resources, to surface water resources, and the surrounding environment.

South Africa is already a highly water-stressed country. Our country faces a 17% water deficit by 2030 with an estimated investment of R33 billion required each year over the
next 10 years to avoid the looming shortage.

The South African agricultural sector can in theory currently provide South Africa and its neighbouring countries with sufficient food. Indications are, however, that due to population growth, food production will have to increase dramatically in the near and medium-term.

Environmental governance in South Africa, which includes integrated water resources management, is extremely concerning. The track-record of government in all three spheres on environmental management of South Africa’s water and other natural resources provides clear evidence that up till now, government is failing in its Constitutional duties in this regard.

Indeed, the recently published National State of Water Report by the Department of Water and Sanitation emphasises this point, as do the regulations, saying that “Government’s regulation and management of waste disposal facilities has been shown to be wholly inadequate. This is in part due to the structural/institutional shared executive and legislative competence of provincial and local authorities in this regard.”

The inescapable reality is therefore that South Africa cannot accommodate a highly water consumptive and polluting onshore gas industry without sacrificing the ability for the agricultural sector to feed its growing population, as well as the surrounding neighbouring countries.

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