Oil Drilling Threatens Namibia & Botswana's Water Resources
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Oil & Gas - August 3, 2023

Oil Drilling Threatens Namibia & Botswana’s Water Resources

The delicate balance of Namibia and Botswana ecosystems faces an imminent threat as oil drilling operations encroach upon their territories. 

This is because the government of both Namibia and Botswana licensed a Canadian firm, Reconnaissance Energy Africa, ReconAfrica, to prospect for oil in the Cubango Okavango River Basin, in an area covering 34,000km².

According to reports, the Canadian-based oil company has licenses to explore a 13,200-square-mile area in Namibia and Botswana, including part of the vital watershed of the Okavango Delta, one of the largest inland deltas in the world. 

This article examines the importance of Namibia and Botswana’s resources and what oil drilling would do to the water resources and the citizens.

The measure and importance of Namibia & Botswana’s Water Resources

The Cubango Okavango River Basin includes a network of river systems across Angola, Namibia, and Botswana. It covers 700,000km² and sustains over half a million people in Namibia and Botswana.

Originating from the Angolan highlands, the Cubango and Cuito rivers join the Okavango River at the border between Angola and Namibia and flow into the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

The Okavango Delta is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in Southern Africa that houses over 1000 plant species, 480 bird species, 130 species of mammals and numerous species of reptiles and fish.

What the exploration License mean

Having received the license, ReconAfrica said its intention is to open “a new, deep sedimentary basin”—in other words, a new oil and gas field. It noted that the Basin which is larger than the country of Belgium could hold up to 31 billion barrels of crude oil. 

This is reportedly more than the United States would use in four years if consumption remained the same as in 2019. In reaction to this, the World Wildlife Fund noted that Oil and gas infrastructure involves “the construction of roads, pipelines, and buildings” that “could all negatively affect important animal habitat, migratory pathways, and biodiversity.”

Reports say the Spokesperson of ReconAfrica, Claire Preece explained that the company will ensure there is no environmental impact from these wells. Preece said, “Specific steps are taken that are part of our plans and verified by environmental auditors and technical specialists. ReconAfrica follows Namibian regulations and policies as well as international best practices.” 

Oil drilling could easily contaminate water

ReconAfrica’s potential oil and gas extraction operation could lead to possible contamination of the water resources around the Omatako River, Okavango River and the Okavango Delta. 

Namibia is a water-scarce country that could be plunged into hardship if contaminants from drilling seep into shallow aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation for crops. 

Asides from this conservationists have also expressed worries that contamination from the test drilling could affect wildlife in the vicinity—elephants, Temminck’s ground pangolins, African wild dogs, martial eagles, etc.

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