Fracking will be better regulated - Molewa

Fracking will be declared a controlled activity under the National Water Act.

FILE: A small child takes part in an anti-fracking protest outside Parliament on 22 September, 2012. Picture: Nathan Adams/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Declaring fracking a controlled activity under the National Water Act will help manage the process more efficiently, according to Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Molewa made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon and the notice of her intention to do this was gazetted last Wednesday.

Fracking involves injecting liquid at high pressure into rocks to cause a fracture, allowing the release of natural gas.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702's John Robbie on Wednesday morning, Molewa said the National Water Act is currently silent on how fracking can be managed in whatever form whether its hydraulic fracking or even unconventional exploration of other methods like oil and gas offshore and onshore.

"We are now bringing that whole suite of management of those activities into the National Water Act under Section 38 as a controlling mechanism."

She said this means companies wanting to explore shale gas deposits under the Karoo will first have to get a water-use licence.

But she said water was not the deciding factor when it comes to fracking, but forms part of a number of factors.

Molewa said there was also an environmental consideration when it comes to fracking.

She said there is already a set of regulations in place that are adequate enough to actually help manage the process.

Molewa said putting these mechanisms in place in the water sector will enable her department to better regulate the ministry which is doing the work, the Department of Mineral Resources.

"This set of regulations will allow us to prevent or even to regulate."

RESPONSIBILITY TO ENVIRONMENT

A number of environmental groups have expressed strong opposition to fracking. They believe it will lead to pollution and destroy scarce water resources.

But many say it will create much-needed jobs and help stimulate the economy.

Molewa said she is confident she will get the trade-off right and her "key priority is protecting the environment and our water resources."

"I always base my work on South African policy and from that point of view I don't think we can go wrong."

She said there are a few areas that have already been declared no go areas because they are extremely sensitive and could be harmful to the environment in the future.

Molewa urged South Africans to comment on the proposed legislation.

"Now look at it and give feedback."