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Kavango oil, Botswana-Namibia

Plans for oil drilling in Kavango region in Namibia and north-west Botwana near the Okavango Delta where Canadian company ReconAfrica holds explorations licences covering 3 million ha.


“A Canadian company is drilling exploratory wells in Namibia for what could be a major oil and gas find. Local residents and conservationists fear the project could use up scarce water supplies and cause widespread ecological disruption downstream in the world-renowned Okavango Delta.” (2). Environmentalists are concerned that the oil development will affect aquifers and water balances in a biologically sensitive region near the Okavango Delta, one of the most famous wildlife conservancies in Africa They also fear that the development could damage traditional sites of the San, the Indigenous people in Namibia and Botswana.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Kavango oil, Botswana-Namibia
Location of conflict:Kavango provinces in Namibia, and the North-West region in Botswana
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Canada's ReconAfrica is a junior oil and gas company engaged in the exploration and development of oil and gas in Northeast Namibia and Northwest Botswana—the “Kavango Basin.” (Map 1). Possibly 12,000 million barrels of oil or more.

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Project area:3,432,500
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:200,000
Start of the conflict:2021
Company names or state enterprises:ReconAfrica from Canada
Relevant government actors:Government of Namibia
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Saving Okavango’s Unique Life, an alliance of Namibian and Southern African civil society organisations, activists and international groups.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Religious groups
The San
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Property damage/arson
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Potential: Air pollution, Fires, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsPotential impact on elephant corridors (Map 2), the Okavango Delta and its wildlife.
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Preventive stage still in 2021, exploration has started, on well has been drilled.
Development of alternatives:"Keep oil in the soil". A moratorium for some decades at least or prohibition would avoid much local damage and also prevent very large emissions of CO2 globally (once the oil would be burnt).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Plans by Canadian ReconAfrica are known, oil reserves are estimated at enormous amounts (from 12 billion to 120 billion barrels), reactions by indigenous local populations are mixed. Large potential impact on local water resources and wildlife. Climate change arguments used by some opponents.
Sources & Materials

(4) An official voice from the Namibia government. The Namibian. Alweendo excited over 'working petroleum system' in Kavango.| 2021-04-16, by Arlana Shikongo
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(1) The New Yorker, 7 January 2021.
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(3). National Geographic. Test drilling for oil in Namibia’s Okavango region poses toxic risk. The petroleum exploration company ReconAfrica doesn’t appear to have taken what experts say is a key step to prevent contamination of groundwater. ByJeffrey Barbee andLaurel Neme. March 12, 2021
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(2) A Big Oil Project in Africa Threatens Fragile Okavango Region

BY HEATHER RICHARDSON • APRIL 22, 2021. Yale Environment 360.
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The Independent. Oil excavation in Africa’s Kavango region must be stopped to meet world climate promises. The climate column: Oil play in the Kavango region of Namibia and Botswana will affect climate targets, endanger indigenous communities and could be disastrous for conservation. Donnachadh McCarthy. 01 April 2021
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Canada's ReconAfrica shares plans for oil exploration in the Kavango.

21 Febr. 2021.
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(5)Namibia: ReconAfrica believes the Kavango Basin in Namibia and Botswana could generate billions of barrels of oil, but environmentalists and Indigenous leaders want the area to remain untouched. Lisa Ossenbrink, 22 April 2021. Aljazeera.
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CNN, estimate of 12,000 million barrels of oil.
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Good report by Sky News, 2021. Villagers in Namibia say big businesses searching for oil is damaging their way of life and their ancestral homes.
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Mail and Guardian. Pursuing fossil fuels in Kavango Basin a ‘stupid bet’. Sheree Bega. 26 Apr 2021
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update08/05/2021
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