What about the poor dugongs?

The Citizen (KZN) - - Opinion -

Dear Sa­sol, Con­grat­u­la­tions on your de­ci­sion to go ahead and drill test wells on the out­skirts of the Bazaruto Ar­chi­pel­ago Na­tional Park. I have seen pho­to­graphs of the area and, quite frankly, it makes me sick. If I can’t af­ford to go there on hol­i­day, then no­body should be al­lowed to.

Ap­par­ently it’s one of the last places in Africa where you can see the dugong. Have you ever seen a dugong? I have. Well, I’ve seen pic­tures of one. Ob­vi­ously I can’t af­ford to go any­where that has dugongs. And a good thing it is, too. Dugongs are ridicu­lous. They look like a dol­phin crossed with a hippo crossed with my lo­cal coun­cil­lor. They shouldn’t be al­lowed. I hear they are deadly crea­tures whose diet con­sists of small an­i­mals like goats and chil­dren.

My fear and loathing of dugongs is matched only by my dis­dain for the Mozam­bi­can gov­ern­ment. I can’t be­lieve that, 10 years ago, they re­fused you per­mis­sion to ex­plore on the spu­ri­ous grounds that the area is “en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive”. Let me tell you some­thing. I am noth­ing if not sen­si­tive to my en­vi­ron­ment. But if it makes me sneeze or tries to kill me, I will have it an­ni­hi­lated. The en­vi­ron­ment must also learn to show some sen­si­tiv­ity to our needs. This is not a oneway street.

Your lo­cal sub­sidiary got ex­plo­ration rights back in 2005 and started do­ing seis­mic tests. The blasts would have cer­tainly given the dugongs some­thing to think about. Then, in 2008, the gov­ern­ment cock-blocked you on the grounds that they wanted to come up with an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment.

Some­thing must have slipped through the cracks, or maybe into a bank ac­count, be­cause the re­port still hasn’t been pub­lished. Now you’ve hired Golder As­so­ci­ates, a Canadian com­pany that cares deeply about prof­its as well as the planet and cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance be damned. They have an­nounced that Sa­sol has de­cided to “take the ini­tia­tive” and re­sume Project Bazaruto.

I read that Golder has put to­gether a hit squad of “con­sul­tants” and that pub­lic meet­ings have been held to “ad­dress con­cerns re­gard­ing fu­ture ac­tiv­i­ties”. Well done. This is the way to do it. I might not have been to Bazaruto, but, like ev­ery other red-blooded brandy-guz­zling fish-killing white South African man, I have been to Ponta do Ouro. You will have found, as did I, that when it comes to the ad­dress­ing of con­cerns in the trop­i­cal nethers, there is no short­age of scrawny palms happy to be greased and the lo­cal pop­u­lace al­most al­ways puts up less of a fight than a tooth­less bar­racuda.

Your spin-doc­tors over at Golder have been quick to re­as­sure the lo­cals that there are “no im­me­di­ate plans to con­duct seis­mic or ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­i­ties”. As you and I know, the word “im­me­di­ate” has no ac­cu­rate trans­la­tion in Africa. Ev­ery­thing is open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion, if not ne­go­ti­a­tion.

It was also smart to get Golder to fi­na­gle the de­tails. “If hy­dro­car­bon re­serves are found to be eco­nomic, Sa­sol’s in­ten­tion is to ex­ploit those re­serves to ex­pand ex­ist­ing mar­kets and de­velop new mar­kets in both Mozam­bique and South­ern Africa.” Damn, I love the smell of ex­ploita­tion in the morn­ing. This ex­pand­ing and de­vel­op­ing of new mar­kets is a com­plex thing and any­one who starts look­ing into it will ... oh, look! Cat videos! But you know this al­ready.

Dugong-hug­gers are at­tempt­ing to mo­bilise. The least stoned per­son in the drum cir­cle re­cently sent a let­ter to Golder say­ing they don’t want any ex­plo­ration in ar­eas ad­join­ing na­tional parks. Espe­cially not in ar­eas tra­di­tion­ally used to get naked and high dur­ing full moon beach par­ties. They say they are wor­ried about the dugongs. Re­ally? An­cient mariners thought dugongs were mer­maids. That’s some kind of ugly-ass mer­maid right there. It’s clear that dugongs have been as­so­ci­ated with drug abuse for a very long time and should be locked up.

Did you know that dugongs can live for 70 years and weigh more than 500kg? I have seen the hu­man equiv­a­lent on Dur­ban’s beaches and it’s not a pretty sight. They’re a seis­mic event all on their own. They are known as sea cows. The dugongs, not the hol­i­day­mak­ers. Isn’t there a way you can ex­ploit them while you are ex­ploit­ing the min­eral re­sources? Like a side ex­ploita­tion. Yeah, sure, we got hy­dro­car­bon. How much you want? Tell you what. Take a ton and we’ll throw in a dugong. Spe­cial of­fer. Cash only.

Ap­par­ently the nearby So­fala Bank is also Mozam­bique’s most im­por­tant fish­ing ground. Well, sorry Bei­jing. You are just go­ing to have to poach some­where else. Un­less, of course, the kind of fish you’re af­ter aren’t both­ered by ex­plo­sions and shal­low-wa­ter drills smash­ing their way two kilo­me­tres into the seabed. I don’t know what kind of fish that might be. Wouldn’t eat it, my­self.

Shan’t risk catch­ing mad fish dis­ease.

A bunch of grouper grop­ers have writ­ten to Golder point­ing out blind­ingly ob­vi­ous de­tails about sound waves trav­el­ling long dis­tances un­der wa­ter. This might up­set the whales, they say. Oh, please. The call of the blue whale can hit 188 deci­bels and trav­els hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres. I don’t know what they’re whistling for. An­other round of krill, prob­a­bly. Sperm whales’ clicks are louder than five Xhosa women at an En­gen shop. In fact, the whale is the loud­est an­i­mal on earth. It’s about time they got a taste of their own medicine.

Stud­ies have shown that seis­mic test­ing causes per­ma­nent or tem­po­rary hear­ing loss in sev­eral species. How would you even know if a fish is deaf? It’s not like they pay the slight­est at­ten­tion to us un­less they are on the end of a hook, and even then they won’t look us in the eye. Would it re­ally be that bad if the dugongs of Bazaruto had their hear­ing im­paired? Why do they even have ears? They don’t talk to each other. They are like peo­ple who have been mar­ried for more than five years.

Drill, baby, drill. The world needs more hy­dro­car­bon. What­ever that is.

Dugongs can live for 70 years and weigh more than 500kg

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