Angry Bulgarians Protest Shale Gas Exploration
Hundreds of Bulgarians braved a cold autumn rain and marched in the streets of capital Sofia Saturday to request a ban on shale gas exploration in the country.
Protesters, who were joined by regular passers by, were carrying provocative signs, such as "Don't Gas Our Water!" and "We Know More about Shale Gas than Ministers Do - So Fire Them!"
In July, the Bulgarian government finalized a deal with US energy giant Chevron for the exploration for shale gas in large parts of the country's northeast.
Environmentalists and regular citizens have been alarmed about what they see as environmental hazards of the procedure, which they say might lead to pollution of groundwater with disastrous consequences for the safety of drinking and agriculture.
Saturday protesters cited the examples of France, which has proclaimed a ban on shale gas production in its territory, as well as US states that are reviewing the method.
The exploration and extraction of shale gas involves the impression into the ground of large quantities of dissolved chemicals via a method known as hydraulic fracturing, in order to free gas dissolved in rock called shale.
This is known to have caused in multiple cases escaping of the company-protected chemicals, as well as natural gas, into the groundwater, rendering it unfit for human use.
Recently senior Bulgarian government officials have attempted to convince the public that all due environmental precautions will be taken in the exploration for shale gas in the country.
Over the past year, US ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick has held a consistent pro-shale gas policy, defending the method's safety and economic effectiveness, and arguing in favor of Chevron's interests.