In 2009, the company DANA GAS (UAE) started shale gas explorations near Fares, a small agricultural village on the West Bank of the Nile, 75 km North of Aswan.
The company employed a controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking", which uses a mixture of pressurized water and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in the shale rock.
The village was soon flooded with groundwater and in January 2013 orchards, crops and houses were destroyed.
Residents do not have results from the water tests that the government was supposed to carry out. In addition to ecological concerns, property owners whose land was affected have received very little compensation from the gas extraction company (Dana Gas) or from the Egyptian government. The clean up efforts promised by the government have come to a halt and it is not known if and when they will resume.
The case of Fares, however, differs from other documented cases of damages caused by fracking.
The flooding is believed to be the result of seismic testings, a straightforward operation conducted prior to the extraction to determine the size of the shale.
Therefore, this case shows:
how monitoring of the fracking operations --known to be possibly harmful for water reserves -- was poor or non-existent in an area close to the Nile
media usually focuses on fracking's direct effects. In Fares, however, damage was caused by a subsidiary effect of fracking
land grabbing - although not through acquisition, but through destruction - occurred without compensation for the villagers and the denial of any responsibility on part of the company
the Egyptian government - under Mubarak, the SCAF, and the Muslim Brotherhood - failed to stand up against the company and protect its citizens
environmental concerns not only for the village's proximity to the Nile, but also for the destruction of many mature and rare trees
00:00 - 00:17
Images of Upper Egypt, Map of Fares
VO: "75 km north of Aswan lies Fares, a village of 30,000 inhabitants, on the west bank of the Nile. Renowned as one of the principle producers of mangoes and dates in Egypt, the majority of Fares' residents are employed in the agricultural sector, making fields and crops the crux of the village's economy."
00:18 - 00:35 Images of the flooded fields, Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Hamid
VO: "However, in January 2013, flooding of groundwater devastated fields and orchards, and destroyed houses and local buildings in the village. The flooding has been attributed to the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations by the company Dana Gas, whose extraction site, is only 10 km north of Fares.
00:36 - 00:47 Animated info-graphic on fracking
VO: "Fracking is a controversial technique used to extract natural gas from shale rock. This is done by creating fissures in the shale with a perforating gun, and then injecting a pressurized mixture of water and chemicals to release the trapped gas and bring it to the surface."
00:48 - 01:19 Interview with the Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Hamid (community leader), images of the fields
"It has started since 2009-- first they found that the soil became wet. Gradually, the water began to come on the surface, higher and higher, until it reached the level of one metre. This water has submerged about 2,000 feddans of land (840 hectares)."
01:20 - 01:26 Images of fields, uprooted palm tree
VO: Although the company is not fracking in Fares directly, the flooding is believed to be a result of Dana Gas's seismic testing using 'shot-holes'.
01:26 - 01:52 Animated info-graphic on seismic testing
VO: "Seismic testing uses 30 foot pipes that are inserted into the ground, and an explosion is detonated. The vibrations from the explosion bounce off the subsurface rock and travel back to the surface, where a grid of geophone sensors pick up the wavelengths, thus determining the expanse of the shale below. Ordinarily in the industry, the pipes are plugged in order to prevent flooding. But, these pipes were left open in the fields-- creating a pathway for flowing groundwater to stream upwards."
01:53 - 02:09 Images of fields, springs
VO: "The flooding reached a climax in January, but damage to the fields remains. Stagnant puddles of water exceeding 3 inches, cover entire fields. Groundwater continues to spring spontaneously, creating essentially a swamp out of homes and a formerly prosperous crop."
02:10 - 02:24 Interview with Mohamed Abdouh (farmer and teacher)
"Approximately about 150 families have to move, because of this problem. A lot of these families can't afford to build new houses."
02:25 - 02:36 Interview with Mohamed Abdouh, images of the local graveyard
"The most bitter thing for the villagers is that the graveyard of the village has completely submerged. "
02:37 - 03:06 Interview with Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Hamid in front of a house destroyed
"Approximately 2,000 feddans were flooded by the groundwater. it is more than 2,000 feddans. In these areas there were trees: palms, lemon, mango, berries and that now there is water (that are now flooded). It has more than a hundreds of thousands of doom, palms, mangoes, lemons, and all citrus and this is all the income for the village. These fields are the only income for the village "
03:07 - 03:20 Images of residents
VO: Residents state that there was virtually no consultation with the village prior to shale extraction. In 2009, they were told there may be gas reserves in their village, but the seismic testing carried out directly on their land, was not explained to them.
03:21 - 03:44
"They just came and drilled. When the farmers asked them they told (them) they were looking for oil. So the farmers were happy. If they found gas or oil on your land, you will have a good compensation. Good money as a compensation."
03:45 - 03:52 Images of a street seller, men sitting on the ground, kid riding a donkey
VO: "The governor of Aswan stated that the company would create 450 jobs for local residents, yet no one has been employed to date."
03:53 - 04:06 Images of children, the local school, man picking up bricks
VO: "Moreover, compensation remains a large concern for the residents' livelihood. Beyond the municipal government offering to help rebuild the hospital and school, very little money has actually met the hands of the land and home owners whose properties were damaged."
04:07 - 04:34 Interview with Mohamed Abdouh
"When the villagers went to make a sit-in in the company-- in the site there- -the responsibles came and told us they have given the clerks in the municipal council a big number-- a lot of money. When we returned to the municipal council, they denied that. So we are... we don't know how. We are now bewildered between them…"
04:35 - 04:49 Images of the cleanup operation site.
VO: "The government began cleanup efforts six months ago by draining the fields with pipes that would empty to a drainage canal and then run back into the Nile. The pipes though, were too small, and so the clean up project had come to a halt. When they will resume is unknown."
04:50 - 04:59 Images of Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Hamid, puddle of stagnant water, the Nile river from Fares' shore.
VO: "Residents still have not heard back from the municipal council abt the water test results, but maintain that the water is harmful, which is also a cause for concern due to its proximity to the Nile."
05:00 - 05:16 Images of Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Hamid, images of resident walking next to trees, man on the train.
In addition to the ecological concerns, it's significant that Fares' principal fields and orchards were destroyed, including many mature trees that had reached peak production. Thus not only costing the agricultural-centered village lost profits this year, but also for the years to come.