Saturday, February 27, 2021

Tragedy of the Commons as an environmental control concept

Close similarities in existence between the proverbial “Tragedy of the Commons” (ToC) and environmental challenges associated with the exploration, drilling and extraction of coal bed methane (CBM) in Botswana are due to the common ownership misconceptions says Kalahari Energy (KE) Technical Consultant, Geology Mokwaledi Ntsimanyana.

According to Ntsimanyana, “The ToC phenomenon is specifically vivid on public ownership of what are deemed natural resources. The environment or atmospheric envelope, air, water, minerals, and land are owned by no one, yet we all use them. Alongside comes the misguided perception of “abundance and perpetuity”.

“Common or public ownership, creates a limited sense of individual ownership and therefore with limited or no upkeep sustainability. Everybody’s property is nobody’s, and people feel free to abuse usage at no private cost. No rentals payable therefore gross inefficiency sums up the Tragedy of the Commons syndrome.”

Speaking during the just-ended March 10 to 11 Unconventional Gas-to-Power, the KE Consultant Geologist said in the wake of this ToC anomaly society has not been founding wanting as regards providing workable solutions.

As part of societal reaction, advocacy movements have agitated for common resources definition, use and regulation; common popular positions or perceptions; promulgation of Laws; establishment of implementation agencies or regulators; for the country’s tangible public goods like land, water and air.”

In response to what would be a free-for-all scenario with detrimental consequences, establishment of Laws on the Commons in Botswana since 2002 have come up with all-encompassing legislation on environmental preservation which include the physical, ecological, archaeological, aesthetic, cultural, economic, institutional, human health and social aspects of the surroundings of a person; Laws of Botswana Environmental Assessment Act, 2011, No.10 of 2011.

CAP 66:01Laws of Botswana on Mines and Minerals, Part II, Sec 3, of 2002 stipulate that all rights of ownership in minerals are vested in the Republic of Botswana.

CAP 34:01, Laws of Botswana, Water, Part II, Sec 4, of 2002 excludes all rights of property in public water.

According to CAP 32:02, Part II Sec 10 of 2002, all Rights and title to land shall vest in the land board in trust for the benefit and advantage of citizens of Botswana.

In accordance with good international mining industry standards, the mining license applicant shall submit a comprehensive EIA as part of the Project Feasibility Study Report and conduct good mining industry practice, preserve the natural environment, minimize undue loss of or damage to natural and biological resources, and prevent environmental pollution and contamination.

Unconventional Gas such as CBM exploration leads to loss of indigenous uses of land resources; pollution of surface waters and damage to ecosystems through the disposal of CBM production water; There is also pollution of sources of underground drinking water through drilling fluids and mixing of different aquifers’ waters; underground drinking water from CBM flow simulation processes specifically through hydro-fracturing or fracking and the agents used; visual intrusion conveyed by the CBM infrastructure and noise pollution.

CBM challenges can also be addressed through the mounting of interventions such as the development of an in-house an environmental management programme (EMP), construction of boreholes to avoid cross water contamination, water containment dams, installation of infrastructure to minimize visual intrusion and development of water treatment options for disposal.

However, community focused communications through Kgotla meetings and Land Boards, consultations with surface rights holders and other stakeholders and media briefings, ensures a holistic approach to CBM challenges.

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