Namibian Sun

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta says all invalid licences, permits or
authorisations granted without an environmental clearance certificate (ECC)
must be withdrawn by 1 December.

Shifeta said proof of withdrawal must be submitted to the office of the
environmental commissioner by Saturday.

He said this gives officers who have violated the law by permitting
activities without proof of an ECC a last chance. Shifeta was speaking in
parliament this week on the challenges associated with implementing the
Environmental Management Act.

He stressed that the process for acquiring an ECC is very important, in
terms of ensuring the protection of the environment.

He said the undertaking of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or
scoping allows for the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and
mitigating the biophysical, social and other relevant effects of
development proposals, prior to major decisions being taken and commitments
being made.

He said it is very important that this process is carried out, as it allows
for the ministry to better plan and put in place mitigation measures to
minimise impacts.

“If in the past, sand mining companies and operators had applied for
environmental clearance certificates, it would have been possible to
restrict that industry to certain areas and avoid it infringing on people’s
homesteads and crop fields, as well as damaging the environment.”

Shifeta said it would also have been possible to impose conditions on ECCs
that would have compelled companies to undertake some rehabilitation
measures once they had exhausted the resource.

The location of a number of green scheme farms in elephant migratory routes
is another challenge that could have been avoided, he said.

According to Shifeta this could have been flagged, had a proper EIA been

He said the recent cases of severe damage being caused by elephants to
these farms are regrettable and a considerable setback to the efforts to
enhance food security and boost socio-economic development through the
green schemes.

Shifeta said another example is small farming units in communal areas,
where human-wildlife conflict could have been avoided, had the land reform
ministry first obtained ECCs for all these activities.

?Furthermore, we are also aware of the exploitation of our forest resources
in the Kavango West, Kavango East, Zambezi and lately the Ohangwena Region,
from where high value timber is being exported with almost no local level
value-addition or beneficiation.?

Shifeta said his ministry called an urgent meeting with the agriculture
ministry to address the issue and informed it to withdraw all timber
harvesting licences granted without ECCs. ?I am happy to announce that the
agriculture ministry complied and all timber harvesting licenses have been
withdrawn as of 26 November.? Shifeta said it is critical that the
policies, plans and programmes of government do not have significant
adverse impacts on the health of the environment.

?In order to enforce the Environmental Management Act and compliance with
its regulations, the environment ministry, as part of its mandate, has to
take serious measures to protect the environment from further damage?. He
said one of the measures will be to name and shame those officers who
granted invalid authorisations on behalf of competent authorities. He
therefore called on all organs of state that have granted invalid licences,
permits or authorisations to withdraw them with immediate effect.

?Failure to withdraw such authorisations is tantamount to furtherance of
the commission of crime by those proponents who are in position of invalid
documents.? He further said to date no organ of state had submitted an
environmental management plan to the environmental commissioner.

However, the ministry is now working with focal persons from the different
listed organs of state to address this situation. “Capacity of staff, lack
of awareness among stakeholders of the Act and systemic inefficiencies are
other challenges faced in the implementation of this Act.” According to
Shifeta the ministry continues to take measures to address these
challenges, but the lack of capacity to enforce the Act through
on-the-ground inspections in the regions remains a concern.