Fracking has faced criticism worldwide due to concerns that it contaminates drinking water and triggers earthquakes. Now, Egyptians have launched a campaign against Shell’s hydraulic fracturing operations in three wells in Egypt’s Western Desert. In a press release the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) state that Shell has failed to carry out an environmental impact assessment and is putting local freshwater resources at risk of contamination. They have also asked the Egyptian government to place an immediate moratorium on fracking until it is independently declared safe.
Reem Labib, the Environmental Justice researcher at EIPR explains: “Fracking threatens Egypt’s drinking water but Shell and Dana’s drilling is mired in secrecy. We don’t know the ingredients of the toxic cocktail used, where they plan to source water from, or how the poisonous slurry will be disposed of. The government hasn’t published any regulations specific to fracking, the local geological conditions, or how and whether it will monitor and evaluate the impacts of fracking.”
Dana Petroleum are fracking in the Nile Valley and EIPR state that leakage of any toxic waste could result in poisonous chemicals flowing into the Nile. This would threaten the lives and livelihoods of the 70 million people who are clustered along the river downstream. As well as concerns about contamination, many worry that Egypt simply doesn’t have the water reserves to support such the water-intensive practice of fracking.
EIPR has called on the Egyptian government to place an immediate moratorium on fracking “until appropriate regulation has been developed and comprehensive independent scientific studies have assessed the potential effects based on local geology, including the possibility of fracking chemicals leaking into the groundwater.”
Shell has already faced protest for its fracking operations in South Africa, Pennsylvania and New Mexico for contaminating drinking water and lobbying aggressively. Even so, there was a heated debate on Twitter over this was the best use of campaigners time and whether Egyptians should be focusing on more pressing environmental concerns in the country such as poor public transport, over-crowding and pollution.
In an ideal world, there would be time and support for all these concerns. Sadly, there isn’t but that shouldn’t mean that we criticise any campaign that comes along for not doing enough – we should be encouraging it to make links to the wider problems and helping it raise a more general sense of environmental awareness. Fracking may not be an issue affecting the lives of many Egyptians right now, but I’d rather see a forward thinking campaign looking into (and trying to avoid) the dangers rather than waiting for a fracking-related disaster to make it more relevant to the average Egyptian.
: Image via Cybergeddeon/openclipart.org
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