Mad Max crew 'wrecked Namib desert'

2013-03-05 07:45
Brigitte Weidlich
Windhoek - Namibian environmental groups and tourism companies expressed fury on Monday about a film crew's alleged destruction of sensitive areas in the world's oldest desert while shooting Mad Max: Fury Road.

"They added tracks in untouched areas," tour operator Tommy Collard told AFP from Swakopmund.

"What is worse is the film crew tried to remove the marks they left themselves by dragging nets over them, ripping plants out," Collard added.

"Together with other coastal tour operators we have collected a lot of photographic evidence. One cannot rehabilitate the landscape of the Namib Desert," said Collard.

Smaller animals like lizards, geckos and chameleons suffered, as well as the rare lithops cactus, he told AFP.

Filming took place in a section of the Namib Desert recently proclaimed as Dorob National Park.

Damage report

The coastal watchdog NACOMA (Namibian Coast Conservation and Management) Project had commissioned ecological scientist Joh Henschel to compile a report on the environmental damage.

It was sent to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) last December for response and actions.

"NACOMA contracted me as consultant about the tracks left by the Mad Max film crew and yes – some areas in the Namib Desert were destroyed," Henschel said. "In one area a ploughing device was used." He declined to give more details citing "contractual obligations".

A copy of the report seen by AFP on Monday laid some responsibility at the door of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. "The permit and environmental clearance granted by the MET to the Mad Max project were not sufficiently specific so as to serve to guide the management of environmental compliance of the project."

Film commission refutes allegations

In an angry response to media reports about the alleged devastation, the Namibia Film Commission (NFC) placed a full page advertisement in state-owned newspaper New Era to "refute the allegations... in the strongest terms."

"Mad Max(4): Fury Road has to our satisfaction... faced up to their responsibilities within Namibia... we register no reservations and give Mad Max(4): Fury Road a clean bill," the NFC stated.

The film commission blamed local media for reporting alleged "untruths" and wanting "to tarnish" Namibia's reputation.

Similarly, the ministry of environment's permanent secretary Simeon Negumbo said the film company conducted land rehabilitation to the ministry's satisfaction.

"From the beginning the experienced, dedicated team used tried and tested methods like vehicle and hand-dragged fishing nets, tyres, brooms, chains, ropes and leaf blowers, which worked perfectly in the area", according to Negumbo.

World Heritage List application

Namibia last year applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to have a more southern part of the Namib Desert declared the "Namib Sand Sea" to be included on the World Heritage List.

According to the application document, in that desert area there are "vast panoramas of majestic dune-scapes, strikingly crystallised in sharply silhouetted forms continually transformed by wind and time."

The World Heritage Committee will meet this June in Cambodia to decide on the application.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth Max film of George Miller and stars Charlize Theron.

It was filmed between July and December 2012.


  • Wike Mood - 2013-03-05 08:42

    how do you fck up a desert?seriously though,they should have had conservation people on set to advise the crew,instead they wait till after the damage is done.

      sarelbrune.pretorius - 2013-03-05 09:13

      @mike, i live in Namibia and the desert hard as it may sound, is full of live and plants invisible to those not knowing about them. the damage is really something bad, and there were guidelines before filming started that were ignored. eg, some vehicle tracks take many years to disappear once you drive on spots where you are not suppose to drive. to me, its not acceptable to destory mother nature as we go along, it is our only heritage left.

      Wike Mood - 2013-03-05 09:31

      hi sarel. I understand that.thats what i was getting is a tough place.was getting at the crew.i was not actually joking about the situation.i really do hope it all recovers.have lekker day.

      Henk Van Biljon - 2013-03-05 19:32

      If the ministry is so concerned now, why didn't they say a word when their previous president stripped the Henties coastline of unique rock formations to adorn his Windhoek palace? Who still remember those windworn rocks that lined the salt road?

  • rob.martin.94402343 - 2013-03-05 08:47


      Henk Van Biljon - 2013-03-05 19:32


  • Phae Rayden - 2013-03-05 08:54

    Boycott the movie? Never. Why would anyone care enough to upset their entertainment for an hour and a half. Friggin locusts, we can't be trusted to behave anywhere.

  • Regte Boer - 2013-03-05 09:31

    Pay the right officials and the problems will go away. The NFC claim everything is okay while actual conservationists claim the ecology was damaged. Who do you believe? TIA.

  • Louise Whittingstall Barnard - 2013-03-05 09:43

    Its MAD MAX for petes sake, what did they expect when they issued the permits? Should have had environmental offcials on set daily to make sure guidelines were not crossed seeing the area is so ecologically sensitive?

  • Ferdi Van Rooyen - 2013-03-05 10:18

    I also think this could have been handled better. 1)Prevention. They should have had set better outlines from the getgo and as a redundancy have someone on set to represent and monitor, limiting the environmental impact. 2)Respect. They could have approached the movie production instead of making a spectacle out of it. The movie studio might have contributed to restoring some of that damage out of movie funds -- its good press, and will not burn the bridge for future movies shot in this location.

  • Desperate.Dan61 - 2013-03-05 10:37

    They should have filmed in South Africa, we have a far more "Negotiable" (Corrupt?) government it seems. They going to allow the Fracking of the Karoo what's a few bugs in the desert compared to poisoning Trillions of litres of underground water people and animals have to drink. If you going to protect the Namib desert then you have to protect it all, plenty of 4 x 4's going over the dunes killing lot's of little critters, that brings no revenue, at least Mad Max contributed to the local economy.

  • Jacqui Grigg - 2013-03-05 15:18

    If the film industry can have animal inspectors on site daily, to monitor no cruelty to animals, they should have had and environmentalist there. In fact. If their stunt and safety co-ordinator was accredited according to what the BBC does in SA (yes this was an American production), he/she would have had to supply daily reports regarding environmental impacts of the day's shooting.

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