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Media Release: Karoo Community Environmental Rights Workshops, and further enquiries to PASA and the Minister

30 May 2011 at 1:57 pm

In June 2011, in partnership with WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa), the Centre for Environmental Rights is rolling out a series of environmental rights workshops for community-based organisations in the Karoo around the proposals to use fracking to extract natural gas in the Karoo.

The workshops, which will cover some 20 towns from Calvinia to Cradock, and include about 100 community organisations, are aimed at providing information, advice, support and guidance to communities affected by the exploration right applications, but who have not had the opportunity to participate in the process.

Despite the high level of media attention given to Shell’s Karoo Basin Exploration Project, it was apparent at the public meetings held in February and March 2011 by Golder Associates, environmental consultants appointed by Shell, that many of the communities who would be most affected by the proposal were not represented at these meetings. For this reason, the CER, in partnership with WESSA, resolved to assist communities in the Karoo to become more informed about proposals by Shell and other companies so that they can participate more fully in this important decision-making process.

“If the exploration rights applications of Shell and other companies are approved in the future, communities in the Karoo may experience wide-ranging effects – both positive and negative,” project manager Andy Gubb says. “We hope to assist communities to become more familiar with the complex information that has been distributed, to make them aware of their environmental rights and of how best to make their voices heard.

In April 2011, the CER formally requested the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) to provide an additional 120 days for interested and affected parties to provide comments on the Environmental Management Plan submitted by Shell, inter alia to allow time for this workshop series with community organisations. To date, no response has been received from PASA.

Today, the CER has again written to PASA, notifying it of the workshop series for which the extension was sought from PASA in early April 2011, and again requesting a reply to the formal request for an extension.

The CER has also today written to the Minister of Mineral Resources asking for information about the proposed research study on the implications of fracking by a multi-disciplinary team of experts, including:

  1. composition of the team;
  2. terms of reference for the study;
  3. timeframe for the study; and
  4. whether the Minister intends publishing the research report.

Copies of correspondence referred to above and further information about the CER’s work on this issue is available here. More information about the work of WESSA is available at www.wessa.org.za.

The mission of the Centre for Environmental Rights is advancing environmental rights in South Africa, which rights include the right to public participation in environmental governance. The CER shares its commitment to public participation in environmental decision-making with WESSA, whose mission is promoting public participation in caring for the Earth.

CER contact: Melissa Fourie, Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Rights, [email protected], 021 447 1647 or 072 306 8888

WESSA contact: Garth Barnes, National Conservation Director, WESSA, [email protected],011 462 5663