The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights calls on the Egyptian government to place an immediate moratorium on unconventional extraction activities using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, at least until independent impact studies have been conducted and made public, and regulations have been created. Fracking involves pumping a chemical cocktail of toxic and carcinogenic substances deep underground to facilitate gas extraction. EIPR also calls on companies that frack to make public the chemical components used and processes of treatment and disposal.
EIPR is alarmed by recent news that British-Dutch Shell is introducing “hydraulic fracturing”, an unconventional natural gas extraction method which pumps toxic chemicals into the ground to increase extraction, but is likely to pollute Egypt's limited groundwater supplies. Adding to EIPR's alarm is the fact that Shell has a long history of environmental violations and pollution both in general and with fracking specifically.
EIPR condemns the use of this technology in view of the of the lack of any regulations to govern the process.
Reem Labib, Environmental Justice Researcher at EIPR says: “Fracking threatens Egypt's drinking water, but Shell and Apache's drilling is mired in secrecy. Egyptians have a right to know how their resources are managed and how that impacts their environment and life. It is unacceptable that the Government allow the application of such a controversial technology without a thorough independent assessment of its impacts on public health and the environment.”
European countries like France and Bulgaria and US American states like New York and Vermont have placed moratoria on the practice to prevent pollution of their drinking water sources.
Groundwater contamination is the most immediate threat of fracking, although it also uses significant quantities of water: Fracking a single well uses more water than an Egyptian citizen consumes in around 40 years or more.
The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) has said that the relevant Environmental Impact Assessment study from Shell / Bapetco for the fracked wells has not reached the agency.
Investigations into the extent of fracking operations in Egypt revealed its use by at least two other companies: Apache (USA) in wells in the East Bahariya field in the Western Desert, which contains essential aquifer systems of fresh groundwater on which both tourism and all agriculture by the inhabitants of the western oases depend. Agiba Petroleum (joint venture with Italian Enni, Russian Lukoil, and IFC) is also using the technology in its “Falak” and “Dorra” fields in the Western Desert.
Furthermore, Dana Gas (UAE) began fracking the West Al Baraka-2 well near Komombo in June 2011, which raises fears that toxic chemicals could leak into the Nile, threatening the livelihoods of those downriver.
As well as contaminating water, the water-intensive nature of fracking makes it unjustifiable in Egypt. The UN already predicts water scarcity in Egypt by 2025, with estimates of only 500 cubic meters available per person annually.
Reem Labib added: “Local communities and future generations will bear the brunt of pollution. Their health and livelihoods will be impacted by water and air poisoning, all without effective participation in the decision-making process, and without benefiting from the resources.”
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