JOHANNESBURG – The government of Botswana has quietly allowed international companies to explore for natural gas in some of the country’s most sensitive national parks using the controversial drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, according to a new documentary released in South Africa.
American filmmaker Jeffrey Barbee obtained a government map that appears to show that authorities in Botswana allocated vast exploration concessions in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park and Chobe National Park without a public debate about the possible environmental and health consequences.
After initially denying the claim, Botswana’s government last week admitted that some hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking – had taken place during coal-bed methane exploration.
“There are currently no fracking operations going on in the country except exploration drilling by various exploration companies,” the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources said in statement.
Fracking involves shooting water infused with sand and chemicals at high pressure into coal beds or shale formations to unlock reservoirs of natural gas. The practice is the subject of intense debate in the United States and elsewhere, with activists citing methane leaks from gas well heads and possible contamination of the air and groundwater.