The High Court in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape has dismissed an urgent application to block Shell from proceeding with impending seismic testing off the Wild Coast in search of oil and gas deposits from December.
The dismissal comes after residents from communities located along the Wild Coast and several other environmental organisations filed an application for an urgent interdict against the petroleum company on Thursday, December 2. This was done to prevent Shell from starting their operations for the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves in the Transkei and Algoa areas off the coast of the Eastern Cape.
— Desiree_Laverne (@Desiree_Laverne) December 3, 2021
According to News 24, Judge Avinash Govindjee said in his 38-minute judgement on Friday, December 3 that the applicants have failed to reassure him that there would be great environmental harm after Shell provided details on compliance with its Environmental Management Programme, which indicated that mitigation measures would be in place for the survey.
“Upon consideration of the affidavits as a whole according to facts and probabilities, the outcomes are the same and I must exercise discretion to reject the application,” Govindjee was quoted as saying.
However, a statement issued by the Legal Resources Centre, who represents the residents from communities in the Wild Coast, (Amadiba, Cwebe, Hobeni, Port Saint Johns and Kei Mouth) indicated that that Shell is not entitled to commence the surveys without getting an environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.
“They argue that Shell’s meagre Environmental Management Programme under the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act is plainly insufficient.
“The fishing communities say that Shell’s 2013 Management Programme is embarrassingly inadequate in its recognition of the existence of these communities, their cultural connection to the ocean and their socio-economic reliance on the marine resource,” the statement said.
In the meantime, two leading marine scientists, Drs Simon Elwin and Tess Gridley have also filed a report with the court as part of the application, where they point to the significant knowledge gaps regarding the impact of seismic surveys on marine life.
The report highlighted numerous studies published since Shell’s Environmental Management Programme was developed in 2013 that better explain the harm that will result from the seismic surveys, and show why, in this context, there can be no reliance on a study conducted eight years ago. Dr Jackie Sunde also filed a report detailing the central role the ocean plays in the cultural identity and customary law systems of communities along that coast.
Picture: Twitter / @shellslies