By Irene !Hoaes
Namibia’s Environmental Management Act is at an advanced stage of being put into practice, as regulations that will be the tools of the Act are about to be completed.
The Act is the basis for environmental management in Namibia and makes an environmental impact assessment mandatory for any listed project.
It also serves as a basis for Namibia to comply with international obligations in terms of environmental agreements Namibia has signed so far.
“We are also busy with putting institutions in place in terms of personnel, like the Environment Commissioner and members of the Sustainable Advisory Council,” Teofilus Nghitila, the Director of Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, said in an interview with New Era yesterday.
Nghitila said consultations with regard to the draft regulations will be done on regional level involving all stakeholders affected, as from next month.
A simplified version of the Act has also been finalized and will be used during the public education campaign.
Nghitila said in the past it was not mandatory to conduct an environmental impact assessment, which was only done on good stewardship by project proponents.
“It was not possible to enforce the environmental assessment policy which was in place because we lacked the teeth to bite,” Nghitila noted.
The country is still operating under the Nature Conservation Ordinance of 1976, which gives more emphasis on nature conservation especially in protected areas and does not really contain sustainable utilization of natural resources.
Nghitila said the new Act contains important principles such as the principle of sustainable utilization of equitable use of natural resources, precautionary principle in the absence of any knowledge or science, polluter pay principle and community involvement, amongst others.
“The new Act encompasses broader environmental management of the environment and the use of natural resources through those established principles,” Nghitila.
He said the ministry’s particular concern centres around mining and prospecting in sensitive areas, especially in the Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast.
Asked about Ramatex’s operations and possible pollution, Nghitila said, “Ramatex was a rushing type of development.”
Nghitila added that the case of Ramatex highlights the importance of an environmental impact assessment as an important tool to guide decision-making processes.
“We painfully learnt what had happened through this type of undertaking,” said Nghitila.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about underground water pollution since the establishment of the Ramatex textile factory in 2001.
A grace period will be granted and major operations will be expected to have environmental management plans in place, as provided for under the Act, when it becomes effective.