Jo Biden had offered 20 billion to preserve the Amazon. It was ridiculed denied by the Trump of the Tropics, Jair Bolsonaro. Perhaps a similar offer to the nations involved in Africa would be a rational response and likely considered. It’s worth a try.
I highly suspect this diary will scroll into oblivion shortly. It’s not about Trump, and it is election day, after all. Biodiversity is on the verge of collapse, and when it goes, we go.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICAConservationists and community leaders in the spectacular Okavango wilderness region of Namibia and Botswana are raising alarms over oil and gas exploration and potential production that they fear would threaten the water resources of thousands of people and endangered wildlife.
ReconAfrica, a petroleum exploration company headquartered in Canada, has licensed more than 13,600 square miles of land in the two countries. The home page of the company’s website says its intention is to open “a new, deep sedimentary basin”—in other words, a new oil and gas field. The Kavango Basin, as the area is known to geologists, is larger than the country of Belgium, and ReconAfrica says it could hold up to 31 billion barrels of crude oil—more than the United States would use in four years if consumption remained the same as in 2019. It’s possibly the world’s “largest oil play of the decade,” Oilprice.com, an energy news site, said in September.
Recon Africa has received permission from the Namibian government, and drilling will commence in December 2020. The wells will be a mile and a half deep. In Botswana, ReconAfrica’s drilling permit is in progress. The ultimate goal is to cover the area in hundreds of wells, some being opened by “modern frac stimulations,” a reference to fracking, the controversial practice where underground shale is injected with high-pressure fluid to crack open the rock and release oil and gas. Oil and gas infrastructure require road building, myriad pipelines, and buildings, all of which will transform one of the more diverse wildlife sanctuaries on earth.
Residents in the area had no idea that a company was coming to drill for oil. To say it was a surprise is an understatement. This area is dependent on the water supply in this desert area. Tourist dollars generate income.
Recon Africa is salivating that if the oil is discovered, it will be financial gold. The oil players invited will be Exxon and other major fossil fuel behemoths.
“Clean water: That is the oil and the gold,” David Quammen wrote in a 2017 National Geographic magazine story documenting the Okavango Wilderness Project, an initiative supported by the nonprofit National Geographic Society in partnership with other nonprofits and the Namibian government. The project has undertaken scientific expeditions to document biodiversity and human presence in the region, amassing a mountain of data intended to demonstrate why this globally vital region, with its all-important natural water supply, should have the highest level of protection. Take away that water, “and the Okavango Delta would cease to exist. It would become something else, and that something would not include hippos, sitatungas, or African fish eagles,” he wrote.
This desert oasis is so extraordinary—and fragile—that in 2014, UNESCO added it to its list of World Heritage sites. The delta is also sheltered by Ramsar, an international treaty to protect wetlands whose signatories include Namibia and Botswana. The Okavango Delta is recognized by an act of the U.S. Congress and various other treaties.
Most of the delta’s water originates as seasonal rain in Angola’s forested central highlands, flows into the Okavango River, and snakes in a three-month journey across the Caprivi Strip before spreading out like a many-fingered hand in the northwestern corner of Botswana. ReconAfrica’s licensed exploration area abuts the main river that feeds the Okavango Delta for some 170 miles. Few other water sources are available during the long dry season here.
“It’s that pulsing every year that I liken to a heartbeat,” said Anthony Turton, a professor at the University of the Free State in South Africa’s Centre for Environmental Management who specializes in water resource management.
At present, few fences section off the Okavango wilderness, so as the waters return every year, eland scatter into surrounding areas to find good fodder, and as the antelope disperse, predators—including packs of wild dogs, prides of lions, and solitary leopards and cheetahs—follow them. Wild animals use the entire region, which is why Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have created the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, or KAZA for short. Bigger than Italy, it’s the largest conservation area on the continent. ReconAfrica’s licensed areas overlap with this huge international park.
ReconAfrica’s prospecting and exploration license in Botswana also encompasses the Tsodilo Hills, a World Heritage site that UNESCO has called the “Louvre of the desert”—a repository for more than 4,500 rock paintings, some dating back 1,200 years, created by the Indigenous San. San people from the Khwe and Ju/'hoansi communities in Namibia and Botswana revere this sacred place.
An influx of oil workers into this remote landscape—and the money, roads, alcohol, and pollution they’d bring—would jeopardize the traditional way of life of the San, said Jennifer Hays, a professor of social anthropology at the Arctic University of Norway. Hays has worked closely with San communities
Wiki describes the water cycle of the Okavango. The delta is part of the desert; it is not a wet environment.
The Okavango is produced by seasonal flooding. The Okavango River drains the summer (January–February) rainfall from the Angola highlands and the surge flows 1,200 km (750 mi) in around one month. The waters then spread over the 250 by 150 km (155 by 93 mi) area of the delta over the next four months (March–June). The high temperature of the delta causes rapid transpiration and evaporation, resulting in a cycle of rising and falling water level that was not fully understood until the early 20th century. The flood peaks between June and August, during Botswana's dry winter months, when the delta swells to three times its permanent size, attracting animals from kilometres around and creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
The delta is very flat, with less than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) variation in height across its 15,000 km2 (5,800 sq mi).
Every year, about 11 km3 (11,000 billion l; 2.6 cu mi; 2,900 billion US gal) of water flow into the delta. Roughly 60% is consumed through transpiration by plants, 36% by evaporation, 2% percolates into the aquifer system; and 2% flows into Lake Ngami. This turgid outflow means that the delta is unable to flush out the minerals carried by the river and is liable to become increasingly salty and uninhabitable. Water salinity is reduced by salt collecting around plant roots as most of the incoming water is transpired by plants. Peat fires might contribute to deposit salt into layers below the surface. The low salinity of the water also means that the floods do not greatly enrich the floodplain with nutrients.
LagoonsWhen the water levels gradually recede, water remains in major canals and river beds, in waterholes and in a number of larger lagoons, which then attract increasing numbers of animals. Photo-safari camps and lodges are found near some of these lagoons.