The village of Fares lies in the middle of the vast Kom Ombo oil drilling concession and is home to approximately 25,000 residents. Most of UAE-based oil company Dana Gas’ drilling and oil extraction lies only 11 kilometres away in the Baraka field. One well was sunk immediately next to New Fares, six kilometres west of the village proper.
Between 2009-2010 Dana Gas set off explosive charges in the ground close by without local consent. The practice of ‘seismic testing’ is used to assess likely oil or gas bearing rock formations. The shot holes however, have been known to intercept the water table, and can lead to water flowing or seeping to the surface. The seismic explosions may also create pathways for water to flow to the surface (2).
Very soon after the explosions, contaminated waters started to rise out of the ground, destroying farms, trees, water supplies and even housing, going as high as five feet high. Mango crops, the village’s main product, have failed due to the rising water.
Over the couple years since then, the problem has become steadily worse, with no action by Dana (2). This destruction of housing and livelihoods has forced many to try move away from the village into the desert, or onto higher terrain in the mountains. Yet government officials have been preventing evacuees from reacting onto what they claim to be “private land”, thus leaving many of Fares’ residents homeless (1).
Hydraulic fracturing, often known as fracking, is currently banned in several US states, in France, as well as parts of Australia and Canada, due to the fact that the chemicals used in the process have, on some occasions, seeped into underground water supplies, causing immense environmental damage. However, another reason why fracking is banned in many countries is also due to the fact that the chemically infused water used to fracture the deep rock is often not disposed of properly leading to environmental destruction.
Currently, there are three main hydraulic fracturing wells operated by DanaGas in areas surrounding the Fares village, and resident believe that water spontaneously coming out of the village holes from “test drills” is connected to those sites.
DanaGas has provided the village with some compensation, often in the form of LE100 (15usd) to LE200 individual payoffs or donations to build facilities like a new library over the years. However, residents complain that this is insufficient in comparison to the damage that has been done (1).
Officials deny that the problems plaguing Fares are related to hydraulic fracturing. Similarly, a 2016 study published by Italian firm D’Appolonia for DanaGas posits that “there is no evidence that Dana Gas could have either introduced more surface water to the existing system, or significantly altered the drainage of such surface waters.” The study goes as far as to conclude that the Dana Gas activities neither directly nor indirectly caused the alleged flooding in Fares Village (3).
It is important to note that fracking in Fares started during the Mubarak years, which has led activists and residents to argue that Dana Gas has actively benefitted from the repression of the old regime, with less complaints from communities resulting in minimised payments for the company (2).
In 2012, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) launched a campaign to help residents of Fares get to the bottom of the issue and lobby for their rights. The demands of residents are yet to be met.
In 2014, Dana Gas sold its remaining 50% stake in Kom Ombo concession, including the Al Baraka and West Al Baraka oil fields, to Mediterra Energy, a subsidiary of Sea Dragon Energy Inc, for around $6.3 million in cash.