The town of Graaff-Reinet in the Karoo is set to become a battle ground between the anti-fracking environmental activist organization Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) and the oil and gas companies seeking to explore for shale gas there.
TKAG chairman Jonathan Deal made the announcement on Monday after returning from the US where he received the prestigious Goldman Environment Award for leading the anti-shale fracturing (commonly known as fracking) campaign in South Africa.
Deal said Graaff-Reinet was Shell’s “stronghold” and he planned to counter the oil company’s efforts to gather local support for fracking by launching “a big” campaign there next month.
Earlier this year, Deal and the company battled to win the heart and minds of the people of the small farming town of Murraysburg over the issue of fracking.
At the time, Deal complained that the oil company was giving locals free lunches to win their support for its plans for shale gas exploration. Shell has denied the allegations.
Deal said yesterday the Goldman Environment Award had given him “a lot of credibility” and he has since been invited to Europe with the view of forming global anti-fracking partnerships.
Deal spent over a month in the US following the receipt of his award which came along with R1,5 million cheque.
While in the US he met President Barack Obama, the Goldman family, senators and lawmakers, and traveled across the country to see shale gas mining sites and meet people who had been affected by fracking.
Deal said fracking remained unpopular in that country and many people were opposing it.
He said he saw abandoned homes as families left after their drinking water had been polluted by fracking activities in their communities.
Deal’s wife Sharon Deal, who accompanied him to the US, said traveling to that country with her husband had strengthened her resolve to put more effort into opposing fracking.
Instead of supporting her husband from the sidelines, she said she now wanted to be a “voice” and to help spread the anti-fracking message.
“I don’t know how I fit into the picture, but I’m ready for action,” she said. – Francis Hweshe