Today, international environmental NGOs sent letters to the CEOs of BP, Chevron, Exxon, and Shell, among others, warning these companies against investing in controversial drilling activities of Reconnaissance Energy Africa (ReconAfrica) in the Kavango Basin in Namibia and Botswana. As oil majors host their annual shareholder meetings this month, groups raise the alarm on this threat to one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, as well as the threat to all of us, as the projects would release more carbon into the atmosphere than we could afford to avoid climate catastrophes.
The letter, co-signed by OilWatch Africa, 350.org, Greenpeace Africa, Greenpeace Canada, and Oil Change International, emphasizes the potential harm to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Okavango Delta, and the world’s largest protected international wildlife reserve, the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (“KAZA”), which covers the five nations of Southern Africa, and which over one million people depend on for water.
The groups highlight ReconAfrica’s projections of potentially 120 billion barrels of recoverable oil could produce a “carbon gigabomb” of 51.6 Gigatonnes of CO2, equivalent to one-sixth of the world’s remaining carbon budget – an amount we simply cannot afford to extract. The drilling operations have already caused significant legal, social, and environmental issues, including destroyed forests and crops. ReconAfrica already faces lawsuits on two continents and is reported to be under active investigation by financial regulators and authorities, including in Canada and Germany.
The company reportedly didn’t adequately consult with local communities about the full drilling plan as required by Namibian law; intimidated local opponents; violated its promise to line its drilling waste pits to prevent groundwater pollution; failed to secure legally required water and land permits; drilled inside Kapinga Kamwalye Conservancy without legal rights, and bulldozed roads illegally through protected areas.
Thuli Makama, Oil Change International Africa Program Director:
“The Okavango Delta is one of the most important and biodiverse places on Earth, and it is under threat from ReconAfrica’s drilling activities. ReconAfrica’s drilling activities in the Kavango Basin threaten the livelihoods of over one million people who depend on the water within the Delta watershed, as well as the survival of some of the world’s most endangered species.”
Salome Nduta, Coordinator Oil Watch Africa:
“OWA endorses this statement in solidarity with all communities that will adversely be affected by the unwarranted drilling in Namibia. It is time to address the question of climate in a holistic approach. In Okavango, this drilling will affect not just communities but a natural heritage site. Its economic disruption on tourism should also be considered. Any project that ends up violating the rights of vulnerable groups, especially indigenous communities, should be resisted. As OWA, we stand with efforts that resist gassing Africa”.
Melita Steele, Interim Programme Director Greenpeace Africa:
“Greenpeace Africa stands in solidarity with frontline communities opposing the continuation of ReconAfrica’s drilling activities in the Kavango Basin. The devastating neo-colonial model of extracting and exploiting Africa’s resources at any cost must end, and we must chose justice over greed and move into a new era of climate justice.”