oa Civil Engineering = Siviele Ingenieurswese - Getting to gas : opinion

Volume 20, Issue 5
  • ISSN : 1021-2000



Watching the late morning sun finally appear over the crest of the flat-topped mountains brings welcome warmth that starkly contrasts the crisp coolness of the desert nights in the Karoo. I can still smell the clove on my hands that was used to spice the springbuck and fat-tail sheep sausage we made the day before. The rich green colour of the lucerne crop seems almost out of place in the middle of such an expanse of dusty tan earth filled with volcanic rocks and small bushes that somehow manage to thrive in such a dry environment. In the background I hear the plunger of the windmill pump bobbing up and down, and the squeak reminds me that the vitality of the lucerne, the animals, and the farmers I'm staying with depends on a vast network of aquifers deep beneath the earth's surface. Undoubtedly, the farmers who originally battled against the harsh weather, remoteness and difficult terrain of the Karoo to settle here would never have suspected that the livelihood of their descendants would be so influenced by the activities of oil and gas corporations. Little did they know about the enormous reservoirs of natural gas buried even deeper than the aquifers, or the economic trends that would put these resources and the farmers themselves at the centre of one of the biggest debates of contemporary significance.

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