The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance together with groundWork Friends of the Earth South Africa hosted its offshore oil and gas exploration awareness campaign on the 8th October 2017.
The meeting was the first further on the South Coast at the Blue Sea Cottages in Ifafa Beach with the hope that the surrounding communities, that will be will be directly affected by the oil extraction activities, would turn up and be informed by what is going on. It was a resounding success as many people from communities such as Umkomaas, Elysium, Scottburgh, Mtwalume, Park Rynie, Port Shepstone, Margate, Port Edward and Ifafa Beach were all present to hear for themselves first hand, what is being proposed for their South Coastline. District counsellors that represent Port Shepstone, Park Rynie, Pennington and Elysium were in attendance, all of which pledged their support and offered to help in any way they can.
All the small towns on the South Coast depend heavily on their small businesses that create jobs and wealth through tourism, fishing and whale watching, marine tours, beautiful beaches with blue flag status and surfing.
The meeting commenced with the welcoming and introduction by Desmond D’Sa of the SDCEA. Desmond explained why it is so important to create awareness about this topic of oil and gas as it will only benefit a few and its impact will be felt by many people who depend on the ocean for a livelihood.
The first speaker, Dr Jennifer Olbers of Ezemvelo Wildlife presented on the devastating impacts of seismic testing. Jennifer spoke of how seismic surveys work, what impact they have on the marine environment, and what specific impact they have on marine life such as whales, fish, sharks, invertebrates and even zooplankton. Seismic surveys designed to estimate the size of an oil and gas reserve generate their own environmental problems. To carry out such surveys, ships tow multiple airgun arrays that emit thousands of high-decibel explosive impulses to map the seafloor. The auditory assault from seismic surveys have been found to damage or kill fish eggs and larvae and to impair the hearing and health of fish, making them vulnerable to predators and leaving them unable to locate prey or mates or communicate with each other. Seismic testing have also been implicated in whale strandings.
The parties in attendance were shocked as they were able to relate as seismic surveys have been conducted on their coastline in the past, with these very same impacts occurring. Some fishermen in attendance told stories of how before seismic surveys were done, the fish were plentiful, however, after the tests, these same fishing grounds are now barren.
The next speaker was Samuel Chademana who is the Climate and Energy Justice Campaign Manager at groundWork. Samuel delivered an enthralling presentation of the socio economic impacts of Oil and Gas exploration on the livelihoods of the people who depend on the ocean for food and income. Subsistent fisher folk depend on the ocean that provides their food and their income. The local businesses on the coast will suffer as tourists will no longer visit these towns and businesses due to the destruction of the natural beauty. Samuel gave us a case study of the situation that is occurring in Nigeria where Oil and Gas exploration has devastated the land, rivers, oceans and people. The same destruction is a possibility in South Africa if Oil and Gas exploration is introduced on our coastlines.
Our last speaker was Alice Thomson of Earth life Africa. Alice delivered an inspiring presentation to those in attendance, urging them to stand up and be accounted and not let the oil and gas exploration destroy their natural beauty, thus destroying their livelihoods. If we want to effect change, we need to start with spreading this message and getting as many people as possible involved. If we get the masses involved, we will be victorious in the struggle against Oil and Gas exploration.
This is not the end of our awareness campaign, rather, the beginning as many people requested the SDCEA takes this awareness oil and gas campaign presentation to other areas, such as Port Shepstone , Scottburgh , Margate , Umzinto, Amanzimtoti and Elysium to spread this message and get as many people involved in this campaign against oil and gas exploration .
We will only be able to stop the destruction of our beautiful coastline if we stand united as one!
Written by: Chadley Joseph
South Durban Community Environmental alliance Project Officer
Contact: 031 461 1991