Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and Namibian environmental activist Reinhold Mangundu published an editorial on October 14 calling for a moratorium on oil drilling to preserve natural ecosystems, in particular for the protection of the Okavango watershed by Southern Africa.
In the editorial published by the Washington Post, Prince Harry and Mangundu, who also holds a master’s degree in sustainable development, warns of the environmental effects of drilling and the importance of valuing nature and life rather than profit.
âSome things in life are best left untouched to achieve their purpose as natural benefit. This is one of them,â the co-authors wrote.
The Okavango River flows through Angola, Namibia and Botswana, providing resources to indigenous communities and areas rich in indigenous wildlife. The Okavango Delta is one of the largest wetlands in the world and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. Fueled by rainfall in the Angolan highlands, the river provides water and fertile soil to 1 million indigenous people and residents.
But now corporate drilling has set its sights on Namibia and Botswana, posing a threat to endangered people, wildlife and the unique ecosystem that Okavango supports.
ReconAfrica, a Canadian oil and gas company, has obtained exploratory drilling licenses in the Kavango Basin, where it expects to discover up to 32 billion barrels of oil. But many have criticized the plans, unsure whether ReconAfrica weighed the effects of potentially polluting local sinks and the entire ecosystem.
Citing recent pipeline leaks, such as early October spill in california that released up to 144,000 gallons of oil into the ocean – Prince Harry and Mangundu warn of the irreversible environmental consequences that drilling risks.
âThere is no way to undo the damage caused by these kinds of mistakes. Drilling is an outdated gamble that has disastrous consequences for many and incredible riches for the powerful few, âthey wrote. “This represents a continued investment in fossil fuels instead of renewables.”
As the November United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow approaches, preserving the environment and alternative energy sources to reduce carbon emissions are at the top of the global conversation.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in an August âCode Redâ report that increasing droughts and devastating weather events fueled by global warming are aspects of our climate change. which will only get worse without immediate action. Research shows that without a drastic reduction in global carbon emissions, we will reach a global warming temperature above 1.5 degrees Celsius (the limit set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement) within the decade. The science-led goals underscore the need for a global commitment to stop the use of fossil fuels and move towards renewable energy.
The upper Okavango River basin is plagued by poverty and most communities depend on natural resources for agriculture, food and tourism. Part of the river basin is protected for wildlife, but most of its area is unprotected.
âHundreds of thousands of farmers and fishermen depend on the clean water flowing to the Okavango Delta. In other projects, extractive development used large amounts of water andcan leave toxic pollutants in its wake, âthe Duke of Sussex and Mangundu wrote. “ReconAfrica’s materials indicate it could drill for 25 years, and because the region’s waters eventually drain into the Kalahari Desert, pollutants could build up.”
Environmental groups call on world leaders at COP26 to take Commitment to nature and commit to conserving 30% of the world’s land and 30% of the world’s seas and oceans. The Amazon rainforest is under constant threat from overexploitation, and rivers, forests and ecosystems such as the Okavango and the Amazon that face drilling, deforestation, pollution and drought are lifelines. vital to indigenous communities and the endangered species that depend on them.
But immediate action can prevent the loss of these natural resources. Supporters argue that world leaders must switch to renewable energy and end the use of fossil fuels, while governments and businesses have a responsibility to conserve biodiversity.
âTo protect the Okavango River Basin, we call on the world to stand in solidarity with us, our allies and local communities by advocating a full moratorium on oil and gas development in the region. We also encourage investors to note who benefits – including ReconAfrica and its partners – and who is threatened with probable destruction of the environment, âPrince Harry and Mangundu write.
The editorial call to action is the type of effort, as they point out in the case of that of Costa Rica revolutionary moratorium on drilling, which works with participation and leadership.
âNow the choice is simple: either we honor our natural and vital ecosystems, preserving them for generations to come, or we exploit them on the path of permanent destruction. Do you want to stay with us? “
You can join Prince Harry, Mangundu and Global Citizen partner Re: wild in defending Okavango’s protection from corporate drilling by signing the open letter here.