Mad Max accused of destroying Namibian desert

Mel Gibson in the original 1979 Mad Max film. Photo/supplied
Mel Gibson in the original 1979 Mad Max film. Photo/supplied

Namibian environmental groups and tourism companies have expressed fury 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.

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

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

Smaller animals such as lizards, geckos and chameleons suffered, as well as the rare lithops cactus, Collard said.

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

Wellington-based Weta Workshop created the costumes and dummies for the film.

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

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

"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".

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 said.

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," Negumbo said.

- AFP

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