EARMARKED: Sheep gather around a watering hole near Aberdeen in the Karoo where shale gas exploration is expected to be carried out, which could poison and debilitate an important water resource in South Africa. Picture: Reuters

Newly appointed executive director for Greenpeace Africa Njeri Kabeberi is on a quest to lead Africa into a new wave of “environmental justice” – with the proposed fracking in South Africa and illegal and overfishing on African shores in her sights.

Hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) is the injection of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to retrieve gas and oil from rocks beneath the surface.

The South African government stated earlier this year that shale gas exploration was “scheduled to commence in the next financial year”, as the exploitation of shale gas is an “area of real opportunity for South Africa”.

But Kabeberi is adamant that fracking could poison and debilitate water resources in areas such as the Karoo – a dry geographic area in South Africa where fracking is mooted to begin.

“Fracking poses a threat to ground and surface water. The fracking process brings a significant risk of contamination of these valuable resources. This pollution can affect drinking water as well as rivers and wetlands, threatening human health and the environment,” she explained.

“Secondly, fracking uses huge volumes of water. Given that many parts of South Africa already experience water shortages, the prospect of further stressing water supplies could pose serious problems at a local and regional level. Can we really afford to waste vast amounts of water in a water-scarce area such as the Karoo?” the Kenyan-born activist asked emphatically.

Kabeberi added that she would lobby the departments of water and environmental affairs not to issue exploration licences to any company on “environmental damage grounds”.

“Rather than wasting time and money on another potential dead end while jeopardising our scarce water resources, we should focus on truly clean, renewable energy solutions like solar and wind.”

Greenpeace is a non-governmental, non-violent international organisation which advocates for environmental issues, and its Africa and East Asia offices released damning findings of their two-year investigation last year; stating that “at least 74 fishing vessels owned and operated by four Chinese Distant Water Fishing companies [fished illegally] in prohibited fishing grounds in West Africa and [falsified] their gross [fish] tonnage”.

The investigation covered the period 2000 to 2014.

Kabeberi said the problem of overfishing and illegal fishing in African waters was a major problem that they had taken up because of what they felt would be ghastly effects for the continent and its people.

“Overfishing is emptying the seas faster than nature can replenish it, threatening the food security of millions of people. The governments of African coastal nations have been selling the rights to fish in their waters to hi-tech, foreign industrial fleets.

“The foreign ships take their catch to ports far from Africa, making millions of dollars, while Africa’s coastal communities grow poorer,” she emphasised, calling upon African governments to “ensure a reduction in the size and number of fleets fishing in African waters, with increased monitoring and control of those that remain in order to eliminate the destructive fishing practices”.

Kabeberi concluded by saying her organisation would work extensively with local communities across Africa to better understand and assist with environmental issues which affected them, while also engaging African governments to enact policies which Greenpeace believed would be beneficial to the continent.

“Most of the environmental issues that we face on the continent require legislation – be it a moratorium on illegal logging or licences being issued on foreign trawlers. So we will continue to work closely with governments, lobby them, providing them with research that is required to enable them to make the right decisions.”