Port Said and Cairo have been dominating Egyptian headlines of late, while Fares, a small agricultural community 75 km north of Aswan, has gone completely unnoticed despite enduring a humanitarian tragedy of epic proportions. Since 2009, after DanaGas began to drill pilot hydraulic fracturing wells in order to evacuate fossil fuels, a process commonly called fracking, poisonous water has been spewing from the holes, inundating farm lands and homes.
Egypt Independent’s Steven Viney wrote a brave expose of the story, which stars a shady cast of corporate and government characters who have bypassed all environmental and social due process standards in order to test their controversial technology. Scores of local residents have evacuated the area in search of higher, cleaner ground, but the paper reports that government officials are prohibiting them from settling on “private land.”
Fracking involves drilling deep vertical tunnels down to rock that is saturated with natural gas or oil. Vertical tunnels are then built through the rock and water and highly corrosive chemicals are pumped through those at high pressure in order to force expel the embedded fossil fuels.
Elsewhere in the world fracking has either been banned altogether or activists are working on making them so and for good reason. Not only has fracking been associated with groundwater contamination, but there is some evidence that fracking can cause earthquake disturbances in areas that are normally fairly stable.
But in Egypt, DanaGas proceeded to test its technology without suffering any repercussions for its apparent failure. Yet the firm flat out denies that the floodwaters which have destroyed crops and homes in Fares have anything to do with their fracking holes.
What’s more, the government agency responsible for monitoring environmental issues in the country, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA), has passed the buck to Ganope – the umbrella organization responsible for DanaGas’ projects that has a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with the Ministry of Petroleum.
“Mahmoud Shawki, the EEAA official responsible for overlooking oil and gas drilling environmental impact reports, stated that Fares was the sole responsibility of Ganope,” EI reported.
Ganope, however, claims that the EEAA should be accountable.
Meanwhile, poisonous streams of water up to five foot high are flooding Fares and residents are pleading for help.
“Please help us,” Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Hameed, both a resident of Fares and one of its leading activists, begged Egypt Independent correspondents.
“We have tried all in our power and knocked on every door possible. Nothing is working and no one cares because we are a small village and far away, but we are Egyptians too, and we have nowhere to safely live and no land to farm to survive.”
Please head over to Egypt Independent for the full report.