CANADIAN oil and gas company Recon Africa, the firm that was granted the licence to explore for oil in the Okavango area, will engage in environmental public consultations this month.
It has also notified the public to submit written comments, input and objections with regards to possible exploration before it commences with its oil search.
This comes after the company came under fire last year from environmental activists.
According to them, exploration in the Okavango area should not be allowed as it could lead to the depletion and pollution of restricted water resources, deforestation and desertification, high noise levels caused by drilling that could affect people and wildlife, a potential increase in poaching, air pollution, and seismic activity that may persist long after drilling.
ReconAfrica has been granted exploration rights by Namibia and Botswana to drill in an area of more than 35 000 square kilometres in the Okavango Basin, which is said to be an environmentally sensitive, protected area that supplies the Okavango Delta with water.
According to Namibia’s minister of mines and energy, Tom Alweendo, drilling for oil and gas in this region is not a problem.
The minister said it was not true that the drilling would be done in a conservancy area.
“I see no problem with it as long as the environmental people are happy with the studies done,” he said last year.
Chris Brown, chief executive officer of the Namibian Chamber of the Environment, last year explained that a project of this nature needs to go through environmental reviews and permitting processes.
“There needs to be public consultation,” he said.
ReconAfrica is currently calling for these consultations, which are expected to be held at Rundu and Nkurenkuru.
In an advertisement published this week, the company said registered stakeholders and the public would be notified about when the meetings and open days would be held in both the Kavango East and West regions.
The public would be consulted on the petroleum activities, which the company said cannot go ahead without an environmental clearance certificate.
ReconAfrica has appointed Risk-Based Solutions CC to lead the process, with Sindila Mwiya as its lead consultant.
The public consultations will also include field-based meetings with the regional councils and traditional authorities, covering all the key stakeholder groups in the region.
The Canadian company says: “The proposed survey in the area will be conducted along existing roads and trucks using environmentally friendly, limited-footprint and efficient light trucks.”
According to the company, the planned survey will be used to predict “potential areas where oil or gas may be trapped in sufficient quantities for further exploration activities such as drilling of an exploration well”.
Last year, environmentalists said they were not consulted or given an opportunity to submit their input.
The Namibian government has assured a National Geographic contributor and author, who was investigating the issue, that the proposed exploration activities would not have a negative impact on the Okavango Delta ecosystem, as it is does not fall under the proposed drilling locations.
“The locations are not along the banks of the Okavango River in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area; it is very far from the Okavango Delta.
“No oil and gas exploration activities are allowed in national parks and no licences overlapping with any national park have been granted. All national parks have been excluded from petroleum exploration licences, including the PEL 73 area. Members of the government, affected communities and civil society have been kept well informed about this programme,” the response stated.