There's trouble brewing in the land of "Mad Max" — and it has nothing to do with Tina Turner and the notorious Thunderdome.
Environmental activists in Namibia are accusing the cast and crew of "Mad Max: Fury Road," the latest film in the franchise starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, of destroying parts of the ancient Namib Desert in southern Africa. Filmmakers spent six months last year shooting in an area of the Namib recently declared the Dorob National Park. What they left behind, activists claim, is a previously pristine landscape irrevocably changed by humans.
"They added tracks in untouched areas," tour operator Tommy Collard told the AFP
. "What is worse is the film crew tried to remove the marks they left themselves by dragging nets over them, ripping plants out."
Local activists say the habitats of lizards, geckos and chameleons were also heavily damaged.
In response to the allegations, Namibian Coast Conservation and Management hired ecological scientist Joh Henschel to compile a report on the impacted regions. He tells the AFP, "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. In one area a ploughing device was used." Henschel also told the Guardian that there was little oversight prior to filming as to what the full impact of the shoot would be on the sensitive region.
"It all happened without an environmental impact assessment," he said, "so it's difficult to assess the extent of the impact without a baseline."
The Namibian government decried the media reports, with the Ministry of Environment's permanent secretary Simeon Negumbo saying that all cleanup efforts by the film crew were to his group's satisfaction.
"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," he said.
With Namibia protective of its lucrative film industry, it's unlikely that the "Mad Max" production will be fined for the destruction. However, future productions looking to shoot in the region will likely face a bit more scrutiny.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" is expected to hit theaters in 2014.