The Wild Coast is largely rural and undeveloped and the people who live there are dependent on biodiversity for their livelihood. Picture: Supplied
The Wild Coast is largely rural and undeveloped and the people who live there are dependent on biodiversity for their livelihood. Picture: Supplied

WWF adds its voice to the growing concern over Shell’s seismic surveillance of Wild Coast

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Nov 30, 2021

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WWF has added its voice to the growing concern and protests over Shell’s seismic surveillance that is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Amid mounting protests, an urgent interdict has been filed by a few organisations to halt Shell’s project and the matter will only be heard at 2 pm tomorrow.

Meanwhile, WWF says it is concerned about the mounting threat of incompatible developments along the Wild Coast of South Africa.

Shell’s proposed exploration for oil and gas which has attracted much adverse publicity in the past weeks is the latest threat to the area.

Joining other voices, WWF says it does not believe the development of an expanded fossil gas industry is necessary for South Africa’s energy mix transition, and “certainly it is not aligned with South Africa’s recent climate commitments that were made at COP26”.

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Natural gas remains a fossil fuel with fugitive and combustion emissions that drive climate change. “At present, we are quickly exhausting the remaining global carbon budget needed to stay within a critical 1.5°C world as per the Paris Agreement. This means that we must do everything in our power to limit emissions from oil and gas.”

WWF says in line with its climate commitments, South Africa should rather explore its abundant climate-friendly sources of energy (including solar, wind and the potential for green hydrogen gas) to ensure a transition away from fossil fuels.

“In a world of rampant climate variability where nature loss is rapid and often catastrophic, the Wild Coast is a unique natural asset.”

The Wild Coast is largely rural and undeveloped and the people who live there are dependent on biodiversity for their livelihood mainly consumptive utilisation and tourism-related activities. Of relevance is that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has allocated 57 fishing rights to small-scale fisher cooperatives along this coastline.

Communities along the Wild Coast are justifiably concerned about the promises that are being made while it is unclear who the real beneficiaries of these proposed developments will be.

“Too often, distant shareholders have little knowledge or interest in the inevitable consequences of incompatible development, and some will come at the expense of local people and nature.

“This coastline has some of the largest concentrations of marine mammals in the world, among them humpback whales and dolphins. It is also home to dozens of endemic species, a host of marine and coastal habitats and pristine estuaries. It also forms part of a unique transition zone with elements of sub-tropical and warm temperate systems.

“The sardine run which can be seen along this coast – sometimes called ‘the greatest shoal on Earth’ – is unequalled in scale and spectacle, and almost certainly worthy of global heritage status.”

While the current exploration for gas and oil has attracted much attention there are also other land-based environmental threats to this area, among them a proposed coastal highway, a ‘smart city project, and the damming of the Mzimvubu River says the WWF.

In an area such as the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, which has high levels of poverty but is rich in biodiversity, WWF finds the prospect of incompatible developments very concerning and calls for fully consultative and collaborative processes to be followed.

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