South Africans oppose Shell oil exploration in coastal area
South Africans held a protest rally on Sunday against plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do seismic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife on a coastal region with fragile ecosystem.
The protests come after a South African court on Friday struck down an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard's Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause "irreparable harm" to the marine environment, especially migrating humpback whales.
This means, despite the protests, Shell can go ahead and survey the area for gas. The ruling was delivered by Judge Avinash Govindjee at the Eastern Cape Division of the Makhanda High Court.
The court concluded that the applicants had failed to convince him that there was a reasonable apprehension of “irreparable harm” if the interdict weren’t granted and that given the financial and other prejudice to Shell if the seismic surveys were delayed, the “balance of convenience” was in Shell’s favour.
The Wild Coast is home of some of the country's most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and its stunning coastal wildernesses are also a major tourist draw.
Shell said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa's energy security if resources are found.
But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000 square kilometers (2,316 square miles) will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, people living along the Wild Coast comprising small-scale fishers from Amadiba, Cwebe, Hobeni, Port St Johns and Kei Mouth, filed their application for an urgent interdict against Shell in the Makhanda high court, asking it to halt Shell’s seismic survey, pending the outcome of their challenge of the company’s assertion that it is legally entitled to commence with the operations.
They said that the commercial and recreational fishing sectors were consulted over Shell’s plans, but small-scale fishers, “who are the custodians of the resources Shell seeks to explore”, were ignored.
Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.