Local Authorities Challenged on Urban Environmental Management

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By Engel Nawatiseb

TSUMEB

The vice president of the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) has appealed to local authorities countrywide to devise policies and subsequently implement prioritised projects in line with the Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) summit declaration of 1992 aimed at introducing the Local Agenda 21.

Pio Nganate urged local authorities to share the successes of the Integrated Environmental Policy that forms part of the “Walvis Bay Local Agenda 21” project sponsored at an estimated cost of N$17,5 million through the Danish Cooperation for Environmental Development (Danced) during 2001.

Nganate said the project’s goal was to study and develop a framework to manage the coastal fragile and valuable natural environment.

He told New Era that the project was developed in line with the principles of the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, which agreed that all levels of society be involved through dialogue and cooperation in the re-use and conservation of natural resources as well as the need to assess the environment and its management in relation to economic and social conditions.

The vice president stressed that it was critical for local authorities to develop an environmental policy, strategy and management action plan and to carry out environment assessment in order to gain a full and authoritative understanding of the natural processes and human impact on identified localities.

“Disappointingly, we have realised that most local authorities have turned a blind eye on the summit principle, hence our vigorous campaign to relive the need for the implementation of Local Agenda 21 countrywide. If we were able to succeed, all of us can yield similar positive results,” he stressed.

Nganate said the need for community involvement during the consultative process aimed at identifying sustainable environmental projects.

He said the community should not view the Local Agenda 21 as an indistinct, distant process that will have no impact on their lives.

He noted that the development of excellent initiatives could easily fail to achieve any significant results if community stakeholders are left in the dark.

Nganate added that the various local authorities could employ the expertise of the Danish company, COWI Consulting Engineers and Planners in conjunction with the Namibia Habitat Research centre that are currently instrumental partners acting as local project consultants and coordinators of projects featuring under the Local Agenda 21. The Human Resources Manager at the Tsumeb Municipality, Elisa Nashixwa, told New Era that her institution developed the Tsumeb Local Agenda 21 in 1998 but could not implement the bulk of the identified projects due to financial constraints. She said her institution was among the first local authorities in the country, which took a flexible position towards the implementation of the Local Agenda 21.

“This is the best initiative that could ease the frustration of many unemployed residents through close participation on projects. Now that funding possibilities have been explored through our external partners, our institution would be better placed to be considered above others since our policy is already in place”.

Nashixwa said stakeholders (consultants) will soon be invited to visit the copper town in order to assist the local authority in project assessment and funding possibilities. She said that the Tsumeb municipality would engage in negotiations with the Weatherly mining authorities and other stakeholders to discuss activities that could impact negatively on the town’s environment and means of averting possible environmental threats.

“Our town is globally recognised as the cleanest paradise in the country, therefore we will endeavour to jealously guard against any threat that could discredit our reputation. We are ready to honour the Rio Earth Summit principles as soon as the necessary funding comes our way,” she said.

Nashixwa further appealed to the Government to assist local authorities source the necessary capital to implement the Local Agenda 21 projects.

Meanwhile, Local Authority Councillors in most parts of the Northern regions told New Era that the concept “Local Agenda 21” is relatively new to their local authorities. They said local authorities that are faced with the growing vulnerability of towns, cities and villages as well as the scarcity of resources need to explore opportunities for consensual management of the urban environment with collaboration from urban actors, administrators and inhabitants.

“Our country’s growing population puts additional challenges on local authority leaders in addressing cardinal issues such as urban environmental management. The increasing population not only hikes the demand for municipal services but also puts pressure on our scares natural resources”, they agreed.

The councillors also pointed out that attention should be focussed on training those who are living in disadvantaged areas such as the informal settlements and transit areas.

“Those are the areas that pose the greatest threat of environmental pollution. We need to have clean drinking water and a clean environment to stay healthy as well as clean and fresh air.”

They noted that the main objective of local authorities should be to concentrate on providing instruments and constant training to public and local community leaders that could be employed in managing the developments in their respective settlements.

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