Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Comments from SDCEA on offshore oil and gas exploration drilling within block ER2369 of the east coast of KZN

Sasol and Eni are set to explore the coast of KZN with offshore oil and gas drilling. KZN is renowned for its famous and beautiful beaches. However, healthy oceans are critically important to marine life and to coastal communities whose economies rely on tourism, fishing and recreational activities. Opening up new offshore areas to drilling, risks permanent damage to our oceans and beaches without reducing our dependence on oil. KZN’s coast could be subject to huge oil spills equivalent to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, with calamitous long-term costs for the tourism and fishing industries. Public Participation is an important part of legislation, yet this process has been flawed on the consultant’s part. The coastal community of KZN has been undermined and this not acceptable.

Impact on the communities, people and environment

When oil spills occur they can bring catastrophic harm to marine life and devastating losses for local businesses. Even routine exploration and drilling activities bring harm to many marine species. Expanded offshore drilling poses the risk of oil spills ruining our beaches, bringing harm to those who live, work and vacation along the coasts, as well as harming habitats critical to plants and animal species. Oil spills can quickly traverse vast distances. Exploration of oil and gas presents multiple forms of environmental degradation. These developments and projects will not only cause catastrophic destruction with the above-mentioned impacts but will also destroy livelihoods to over 50 000 subsistence fisher folk who eke out a living daily. When seismic tests are conducted, they clearly have an impact on marine life. The fish are either killed or forced to leave the area. This impact will increase poverty and lead to more people joining unemployment line.

Emissions to air

The oil and gas industry is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions as well as toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOC in combination with NOx contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone and is a known causal agent of acid rain. The atmospheric pollution will have measurable impacts on the surrounding ocean but also become potentially entrapped in air masses moving towards the coastline where it will be deposited as acid rain. The drilling of wells and production process require vast amounts of energy usually provided by the burning of gas and diesel. The impact of this activity needs to be accurately assessed in terms of tons of fuel burnt and hydrocarbons released. Assuming that oil or gas is discovered then this would no doubt need to be flared off until such time as it can be capped and processed. During this time vast quantities of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds will be released into the atmosphere, indeed continuing throughout the production process. In addition the associated fugitive emissions from retrieved product is an additional source of toxic pollutants as the venting from either onsite (barge/tanker) or onshore (storage tanks and pipeline valves) must be evaluated. The carbon generated from flaring will also add to the existing problem and create added negative consequences in terms of climate change.

South African Coastline

Our coastline is recognized as being one of the most hostile and formidable to shipping. Large freak waves, storms and the presence of a year round strong (4 knot) north-south current all spell trouble for any stationery vessel anchored in place. The impact of the dynamic Agulhas current and its vital role in important biological processes must be evaluated. The positioning of the rig is fairly and squarely within this current that is in effect the highway for fish and mammal species travelling down the Eastern seaboard of South Africa to the nutrient rich and breeding grounds of the Agulhas bank. Anything that occurs off KZN coastline will end up being swept to the Agulhas such is the inevitable nature of the current. It will not simply disperse over the vastness of the ocean as you are effectively discharging hazardous waste into a fast flowing offshore river. In addition it is suspected that the south flowing Agulhas current is of critical importance to the spawning patterns of many fish species that move northwards inshore up our coastline with larval formations carried south by the current. Allowing the presence of ecologically destructive drilling and oil/gas extraction is foolhardy and flies in the face of the precautionary principle.

Health, safety and rescue considerations

In this context consider that the drilling operation lies beyond the rescue envelope of traditional South African rescue services. South Africa simply does not have any capability or capacity to provide long distance rescue effort and certainly not in the weather conditions likely to precipitate a disaster. For example we have no exiting offshore rescue craft capable of providing a rapid response. The NSRI is strictly inshore and the naval capability virtually non-existent. Furthermore, it is not the navy’s role to provide standby services for private institutions. In addition aerial support also requires specialist aircraft that South Africa simply does not possess. The key limitations are restrictions placed on aviation flying over water meaning that specialist aircraft would be required. Where and what are these and who will fund them? Where will they be based? Would they really be able to respond in time in order to assist in event of ecological or human calamity? Consider what occurred on Piper Alpha…and there you had state of the art first world facilities whereas in South Africa things are significantly more third world. The odds therefore that a plant upset could become a runaway uncontrolled event impacting on both life and the environment are therefore significantly greater than the norm of rigs in the 1st World North Sea or Gulf of Mexico where, as we know, enormous ecological harm has been wreaked by this industry despite the proximity of state of the art rescue and repair facilities.

Impacts of Drilling

Discharges from drilling consist mainly of crushed material from the borehole (cuttings) and chemicals used during the operation. In addition brought to the surface is “produced water” that will contain trace elements of oil assuming oily condensate is discovered. This requires evaluation. With regard to the drill cuttings it is not known what alternatives are proposed or whether the cheapest option of discharge into the nearby ocean is the only option being considered. For example is it not possible to injecting everything back into suitable geological formations or take it to shore for further treatment. More drilling muds and fluids are discharged into the ocean during exploratory drilling than in developmental drilling because exploratory wells are generally deeper consequently this is a very real threat to the environment.
Literature on the discharge of drill cuttings and associated drilling fluids indicate that it will cause the death of the benthic (bottom-living) organisms living in and on sediments covered by cuttings in the immediate vicinity of the discharge point. We therefore would demand that a full survey of such benthic biota is established prior to the drilling process and that this be monitored as to its state of health. It is also known that offshore rigs can dump tons of drilling fluid, metal cuttings, including toxic metals, such as lead chromium and mercury, as well as carcinogens, such as benzene, into the ocean all of which must be assessed.
The prospect of a catastrophic spills and blowouts is a documented threat from offshore drilling operations and the near impossibility of introducing a successful capping of the blowout at the depths cited are of deep concern to us. We require significant detail to be presented on this aspect given the learnings of the Deep Water Horizon disaster.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is South Africa's very first World Heritage site since 1999 (Unesco), it is also the third largest protected area in South Africa. Nelson Mandela stated that “iSimangaliso must be the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world's biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world's oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world's biggest marine mammal (the whale)”.

The consultants are prone to making wild and unsubstantiated and absolutely unverifiable claims. Consider the following:
The Goodlad Canyon differs significantly in morphology from those in Northern KZN, where coelacanths have been reported and therefore it is unlikely that coelacanths will be found here”.
How can they possibly state this? The first coelacanth was discovered in East London off the Chalumna River. No-one knows where it came from but it certainly did not swim there all the way from Sodwana bay in Northern Zululand. Almost no exploration has taken place in the deep canyons and offshore waters of KZN largely on account of access as there simply are no deep water submersibles available with which to do so, nor is there any funding. The discovery of the coelacanth off northern KZN was purely due to the inshore proximity of the canyon that allowed scuba divers the opportunity of witnessing them. By no stretch of the imagination can it be concluded that they therefore do not occur elsewhere in deep waters off our continental shelf. This statement is therefore entirely false and unprovable and one can only wonder why such bias would present itself in such a report when the coelacanth is considered to be “the most endangered order of animals in the world”1 One shudders to think what the impact on the coelacanth population has been due to the intensive seismic testing that has taken place in these areas during the reconnaissance permit stage!

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth


The Gulf of Mexico oil spill can be made an example of how offshore oil and gas drilling causes detrimental effects to the ecosystem. Do we not learn anything from history? We are under the impression that all tiers of Government are promoting the idea of allowing these activities to go ahead without proper and meaningful consultation with the public communities. This type of reaction from Government is contradictory because whilst they are promoting tourism with the main focus on the Sardine shoals, whales and dolphin sighting points, beautiful marine nurseries, various bird life and small B&BS which thrive on our beautiful beaches and ocean, they are destroying or allowing the destruction of this beautiful ocean we have. It seems that the offshore oil and gas project will only benefit the elite and rich people of society whereby once again the poor gets dealt a raw deal.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Public Voices to Foster Responsive South African Legislatures

The right to a safe and protected environment and the commitment to a sustainable future are enshrined in the South African Constitution. While many communities in South Africa are increasingly feeling the effects of climate change, civil society engagement in environmental governance remains limited.
Many South Africans believe that Parliament is the institution where important social and environmental justice issues should be heard, and yet how many of us know who our parliamentary representatives are and how to engage with them?
This observation led Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA),  the African Climate Reality Project (ACRP), the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and the Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation (EEO) to launch Environmental Governance – a project which is co-funded by the European Union. 
The Environmental Governance project aims to foster more bottom-up, participatory decision-making processes on environmental issues, and encourage citizens to seek effective representation from the legislative institutions, using them to improve service delivery by the government.
“It’s about improving participation of the public and decision-making in South Africa, especially on environmental issues, and trying to make the decisions that are being made more responsive and in line with what the people want,” says Project Manager, Noelle Garcin, representing FTFA and ACRP.  “People have not engaged with the legislatures enough, and we see now that the government has not been held accountable and is unresponsive to the public demand for better governance and better decision-making in a number of sectors.”
“It’s to get the public involved, the ones that want to come out and challenge government on issues regarding environmental governance.  This is the ideal platform to get them involved and connected, as much as skilling them in a way that they can represent and carry themselves independent of SDCEA - and it’s a skill that will be left in the hands of communities that they can learn from and pass on from generation to generation,” says Shanice Gomes, Project Officer representing SDCEA.
The project will be targeting the legislatures in four provinces (Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape) and national Parliament, with a focus on the committees and units dealing with environmental issues and public participation.  Our other target groups are local civil society organisations active in the environmental sector, and local media. 
“One procedure we are looking at is we want to engage both the legislature and community leaders in terms of how we will work together, and promote much broader communication,” says Sandile Nombeni, Project Officer representing EEO, “The project will give better living conditions for communities with much more efficient public participation, and at the same time we want our legislatures to be active and engaging with our communities in a very meaningful way.”
Sustainability, climate change, gender equality, women’s empowerment, and youth engagement are crosscutting principles underpinning the project’s strategy.
“Particularly in relation to youth there is a need for increased knowledge and awareness on the legislature, and better engagement and dialogue between civil society organisations that are specific in terms of their focus on youth and women,” says Thuli Montana, Project Officer representing SAIIA.
“We are going to work on two fronts.  On one side we want to empower organisations, preferably local organisations, grassroots, to understand and know how to engage and push their agenda with the legislatures.  On the other side we will also try to engage with the legislatures and encourage them to improve their public participation processes. We want more openness, more communication on what they are doing and making sure that they understand their mandate from that perspective,” says Garcin.
In many South African provinces it is problematic that legislatures are not accustomed to being approached by the public.  The Environmental Governance project aims to change that by building positive relationships with those institutions.
“We will also be running campaigns to advocate for a number of issues that we have identified that relate to environmental problems or climate change – and that will take us to 2020,” says Garcin.
The project started in January 2018 and will take place over a period of 30 months.  The official launch event took place in Cape Town on 20 February as part of a wider initiative supported by the European Union, which will see several organisations foster citizen activism across South Africa for increased accountability and good governance.


For more information contact:
Nicole Rodel – Communications Officer
African Climate Reality Project

About the implementing organisations:

The African Climate Reality Project (ACRP) is the African chapter of former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and is hosted on the continent by Food & Trees for Africa. Gore has trained close to 600 African Climate Leaders in Africa, from government, NGOs, youth, media and scientists across the continent. ACRP’s aim is to spread awareness and action and mobilise communities from Algeria to Zimbabwe to find solutions to climate change. Through the work of Climate Leaders across the continent, the movement urges people to take climate action now and communicates the urgent need for countries to act on their commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. ACRP is building support through media campaigns and various events. For more information go to www.climatereality.co.za

Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) is a leading Section 21 Social Enterprise that addresses the issues of food security and environmental sustainability as fundamental human rights essential to our prosperity.  The organisation emphasises education and skills training, which it integrates with sensitive mentorship and phased support. After 27 years of experience in South African social development, FTFA understands what it takes to achieve real, long-term sustainability and want to make a positive difference to the lives of all South Africans.   For more information go to www.trees.co.za

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) is an independent, non-government think-tank whose purpose is to encourage wider and more informed awareness of the importance of international affairs.  It is both a centre for African and global research excellence and a home for stimulating public debate.
SAIIA seeks to provide input into policy development and promote balanced dialogue and debate on issues crucial to Africa’s advancement and engagement in a dynamic global context. Through our Youth@SAIIA programmes the Institute seeks to give young Africans the opportunity to engage with the major issues that confront them, whilst empowering them with skills to become the continents future leaders, who can engage in policy-making as they work towards a Southern Africa that is sustainable, democratic, inclusive and well-governed. Youth@SAIIA currently reaches over 6000 South African learners, students and educators. Additionally, through our networks we connect to over 200 African organizations in 30 different countries.  For more information go to www.saiia.org.za/youth

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is a non-governmental coalition of 17 community and environmental organisations. SDCEA was launched in 1995 to unite members in a common struggle for a healthy living environment and environmentally sustainable and socially just development in south Durban. SDCEA has been both unique and tenacious in challenging both government and industry to address the inequities of pollution and environmental injustice in the area. SDCEA has achieved a reduction in key local pollutants, the closing of hazardous waste sites and secured fishing rights for subsistence fishers. SDCEA takes education awareness, information sharing and capacity building in various forms to enable independent community monitoring and research into pollution, health and social issues. SDCEA arrives at positions through democratic debate and aims to deepen participation in that debate through its capacity building activities, to ensure that arguments are well grounded in both science and community experience.  For more information go to www.sdcea.co.za

Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation (EEO) seeks to build capacity in communities so that they can hold government accountable in all spheres.  The organisation aims to create a broad platform for engagement between provincial legislatures and communities, especially on environmental monitoring, implementation of sustainable green projects and community participation - and most importantly community ownership of communication platforms.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Invitation to the KZN Provincial Summit on Climate Change


The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) hosted the first Climate Change Provincial Hearings on the 17th November 2017. Succeeding the Climate Hearing theme ‘Preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate systems’, we will be targeting major issues that pose detrimental threats to our environment and the lives of people.

The hearing encompasses six outstanding themes: Air Quality and Health, Energy, Livelihoods, Poverty and Inequality, poor development, and oil and gas exploration.

Opening up new offshore areas to drilling, risks permanent damage to our oceans and beaches without reducing our dependence on oil. If these plans were to go ahead, the climate crisis which is not factored in and taken seriously would be intensified and South Africa’s own carbon-budget strategy of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 would be impaired and impossible. The Climate Crisis is in fact a reality and should be taken seriously- now more than ever.

Presentations will be made by key speakers who will present the facts, why we should phase out fossil fuels and put an end to oil and gas.

The Climate Change Provincial Hearing will take place

DATE: 07 March 2018
TIME: 09:00 pm – 15:00 pm
VENUE: Diakonia Council of Churches

Rsvp by no later than Friday 2nd March 2018

Should you require any information please contact:

Shanice Firmin on E: shanice@sdceango.co.za / 031 4611991