Large parts of Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) – home to Africa’s last hunting Bushmen – have been opened up to international companies for the controversial practice of ‘fracking’, according to an investigation for the documentary film ‘The High Cost of Cheap Gas’ and British newspaper The Guardian.
A leaked map shows that exploration concessions have been granted for half of the CKGR – a reserve larger than Switzerland – raising fears of land grabbing, a drop in water levels and irreparable damage to a fragile ecosystem essential for the survival of the Bushmen and the reserve’s wildlife.
The documentary reveals that Botswana has granted lucrative licenses to companies such as Australian Tlou Energy and and African Coal and Gas Corporation, without consulting the Bushmen. While Botswana’s government has denied any fracking in Botswana, Tlou has already started drilling exploratory wells for coalbed methane on the traditional hunting territory of the Bushmen.
The revelations expose the hypocrisy of Botswana’s President Ian Khama, who is a board member of Conservation International. Khama’s government has been heavily promoting tourism to the CKGR while driving the Bushmen off their land in the name of conservation.
CKGR Bushman Jumanda Gakelebone said, ‘The government is doing everything it can to try to destroy us. They have lied in the past about diamond mining, and said there is no diamond mining in the CKGR, but now there is a functioning mine in the Reserve. Fracking is going to destroy our environment and if the environment is destroyed our livelihoods are too.’
The Kalahari Bushmen have been suffering persecution at the hands of the Botswana government for decades. Despite winning two court cases which granted them the right to live, hunt and access water in the CKGR, they are forced to apply for restrictive permits to enter the reserve, and are routinely arrested for hunting.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, ‘This revelation shows once and for all that forced evictions of Bushmen from the CKGR have nothing to do with conservation and everything to do with paving the way for extractive industries to plunder Bushman land. Why does President Khama continue to receive prizes for his ’conservation’ efforts? It’s an absolute scandal that Conservation International accepts on its board a man who has opened up the world’s second biggest wildlife reserve to fracking, whilst persecuting the Bushmen whose home it is in the name of conservation.’