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Environmental specialists and stakeholders from the marine sector gathered at Marburg Library recently for a meeting aimed at creating awareness of the dangers of oil exploration and drilling off South Africa’s coast.
The meeting was hosted by the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) together with local environmental stakeholders.
According to the SDCEA, Eni South Africa BV (Eni), and Sasol Africa Limited (Sasol) currently held an offshore Exploration Right (ER236) between St Lucia and Port Shepstone and planned to assess the commercial exploitation of the oil and gas deposits there for future development.
Paddy Norman and Simone Lotter attended the meeting.
SDCEA said it believed this project would have a devastating impact on the natural environment, and would likely impact negatively on many businesses along the coast.
Dr Jennifer Olbers from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said healthy marine ecosystems were critically important to marine life and to the coastal communities whose economies relied on tourism, fishing and recreational activities.
“Offshore drilling will potentially produce petroleum along with a mess of other toxic substances including mercury, lead, arsenic and barium. These toxins are devastating for the health of fish, wildlife and the people who live and feed off the coast,” said Dr Olbers. According to Dr Olbers, oil spills were not the only threat to the coast – offshore drilling would pollute the water and the air as well.
Paddy Norman told stakeholders that the Department of Mineral Resources was there to make sure such developments took place, but that the department was also open to valid objections and dialogue aimed at seeking solutions.
Desmond Desai (left) and Niven Reddy of the SDCEA
Mr Norman urged those who objected to the drilling to ensure that their arguments were sensible and that they could provide alternatives which would accommodate the development without the drilling.