KNYSNA NEWS - A group of men will be seeking to make their mark on the international stage when they set off from Knysna on an awareness-raising walk to Cape Town on 1 February to protest against drilling in Botswana's Okavango Delta. Several Knysnarians will be joining the walk.
The Okavango Delta in north-west Botswana forms a swampy inland delta where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the basin of the Kalahari and it comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains.
It is one of very few major interior delta systems that does not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact, according to Unesco. It is also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
According to the organiser of the walk, Craig 'Q7' Beckett, fracking or petroleum production has not begun, but a Canadian oil and gas company began seeking out deposits in the delta late last year.
The indigenous communities who live in and around the delta believe that fracking or petroleum production will pose a threat to the delicate ecosystems in the delta, Beckett told Knysna/Plett Herald on a visit to the activation centre of his organisation, First People Southern Africa (FPSA), in Knysna this week.
This has led to a large outcry, as well as the founding of Frack Free Namibia and Botswana (FFNB), whose members educate the indigenous communities within the delta about the dangers of drilling. It was during these efforts that they got in touch with Beckett, who has been a San youth leader and youth developer and indigenous environmentalist for most of his life, and the decision was made to launch a joint effort against the drilling in Botswana.
Beckett has conducted much of his work thus far through FPSA, of which he is the founder and which operates across the country. "I engaged indigenous leaders in South Africa to stand up for our sacred lands of the Okavango Delta, and decided to organise the walk to help raise awareness about our fight," he said.
This has also led to a South African petition joining a larger international petition that will be handed over to the Namibian embassy in Cape Town at the end of the walk.
At the time of writing, the South African petition had received just under 1 000 signatures, while the international petition had received just under 115 000.
The walk is set to begin on Monday 1 February, and Beckett expects it to take between eight and 10 days to complete.
"We will start off with a skeleton crew of six guys, but will eventually finish with a total of 12 participants," he said. "Ultimately, our fight is to have the drilling stopped, or at the very least have our peoples engaged, educated, and informed over the details of the plans before they go ahead. We do not want drilling in the Okavango Delta."
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