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Why is Oil Exploration Controversial in Namibia?

A new exploratory drilling project in Africa has environmentalists concerned the delicate ecosystem of Namibia could be under threat. Spearheaded by Reconnaissance Energy Africa (Recon Africa), the project is taking place in the north of the country, a region crisscrossed with key interconnected watersheds such as the Okavango Delta.Conservationists warn oil and gas projects could compromise the health of the watersheds, with a potentially devastating impact on local wildlife and communities.

In late December, the company announced plans to start exploratory drilling in the Namibian zone of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). Recon Africa is currently in possession of a license that allows it to drill in 2.5 million hectares of northeastern Namibia, with a significant footprint located within the KAZA. In addition to the Namibian section, the company also holds a license to drill in a 1 million hectare area of the Botswanan KAZA...

“The possible impact that oil and gas extraction would have on the water resources in Namibia and Botswana is the biggest concern,” warns Esterhuyse, an expert in the impact of oil and gas extraction on groundwater resources.

While the Namibian government has only approved a handful of test wells, environmentalists say production could rapidly increase if not regulated properly. Further activity will require independent environmental impact assessments, though opponents say these can be surprisingly easy to obtain...

Local communities are voicing concerns over the projects, though are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of response from the Namibian government and Recon Africa. “The local community are in darkness, they don’t have clues on what is going on,” says Max Muyemburuko, chairperson of African wildlife conservation group, Muduva Nyangana Conservancy. “They want their voices to be heard. Kavango is the only land that we have. We will keep it for the generation to come.”

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