Protests against fracking are happening in Algeria.
Recent news coming from this country focuses on two main issues: the effects of falling oil prices and the anti-shale gas drilling protests in the southern region.
The two matters are inherently connected because the drop in oil prices is leading the Algerian regime to pursue nontraditional hydrocarbon sources, such as shale gas, despite environmental concerns and anti-fracking sentiments in the country’s South. Altogether, the regime’s insistence on continuing shale gas drilling and catering to international oil companies like BP, Shell, and Total has intensified criticism of a regime that is popularly viewed as deceptive and hypocritical.
Not much dialogue is happening
Characteristic of the Algerian regime, the “national dialogue” on shale gas drilling around the small town of Ain Salah has been opaque and rather nonexistent. The regime announced the start of drilling on December 27, 2014. The population reacted by organizing various protests throughout the country. The largest demonstrations took place in southern cities, but others were also organized in Algiers and Oran, Algeria’s two largest urban centers.
As reported in Open Democracy, Prime Minister Abdelmalak Sellal tried to lessen hostility by announcing that “the operations in Ain Salah were of experimental nature.” He “promised there would be no drilling for the next four years.”
Algerian activist and member of the Algerian Solidarity Campaign (ASC), Rachid Lamri, documented the recent events. Lamri pointed out that the prime minister refused to use the words “moratorium,” “halt,” or “stop.” Sure enough, on February 8, Said Sahnoun, CEO of the state-run oil company Sonatrach, announced exploration and drilling were moving forward at the Ahnet site, located in the Ain Salah province.
Debate & deception as government ignores the poor
This perceived deception has fueled feelings of marginalization among the local population, contributing to general sentiments about how the government has ignored poorer people in the South. The debate also highlights frustrations with the authoritarian nature of the Algerian regime and its fixation with the less labor-intensive hydrocarbon sector, which provides few jobs and makes profits for international oil companies and the Algerian state.
France’s hypocrisy in outlawing shale gas drilling in its own country, due to environmental concerns, while showing interest in Algeria’s efforts has also been cited as another example of the government’s suspect dealings with Western states and multinationals.
A nationwide protest in solidarity with the anti-fracking protesters has been planned for February 24. One of Algeria’s main opposition groups, the Coordination for Liberties and Democratic Transition, includes five main opposition parties and an array of civil society groups, journalists, activists, and former politicians.
The coalition plans to take part in the nationwide demonstrations, raising concerns about whether these protests will galvanize Algerians across the country and connect with anti-regime sentiments on a larger scale.
By Anna Jacobs. Source: Muftah