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ARGENTINA | 05-01-2022 14:56

Thousands protest oil exploration project off coast of Argentina

Thousands of people march along the beaches of Mar del Plata to protest an oil exploration project off the Atlantic coast.

Thousands of people marched Tuesday along the beaches of Mar del Plata to protest an oil exploration project off the Atlantic coast.

Carrying placards reading "Oil is death", "A sea without oil tankers" and "No to pollution," environmental demonstrators and left-wing activists marched to drums, while classical dancers performed.

The protesters oppose a recent decision by President Alberto Fernández's government authorising seismic exploration studies by the Norwegian oil company Equinor, state energy firm YPF and Anglo-Dutch company Shell.  The work will take place in offshore areas of the Argentine Sea, around 300 kilometres (186 miles) from beaches that attract millions of tourists.

Mar del Plata lies around 400 kilometres south of Buenos Aires, the nation’s capital.

These explorations will "kill marine animals," alleged demonstration organiser Julieta, who declined to give her last name. 

"We’re calling the march 'El Atlanticazo,’” said the protester. “There is a 100 percent chance of an accident and pollution, according to a study by the University of Tandil."

"If there is an accident, the oil spill could reach neighbouring Uruguay," she added. “There have been recent accidents all over the world. The sea is life, it is creation, we are water.”

Surfer and lifeguard Juan Manuel Ballestero told AFP that he was against the exploration due to "disastrous data on oil spills in Brazil and Mexico."

“I give a resounding 'no' to this exploitation," he declared.

Rallies were also staged in other coastal cities across Argentina, in support of the demand.

Argentina holds extensive shale oil and gas deposits – including the world's second-largest shale gas formation, Vaca Muerta – which the government hopes could be a driver of economic growth as it struggles to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

The government says the project was granted approval after a public consultation hearing, though Greenpeace says that “98 percent of participants” objected to the project. 

The oil companies with stakes in the three blocks in question have said they will comply with the conditions imposed by the Argentine government and the "highest international standards" in terms of safety and socio-environmental issues.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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