Consideration Risks within Environmental Impact Assessment

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By Moses Amweelo

According to the preliminary report of the Central Statistical Office of 1991, the rural areas account for 58 percent of the population while the urban areas account for 42 percent.

The rate of population growth is estimated at 3.0 percent per annum. About 32 percent of the African population live in the urban area and are involved in the manufacturing, for example in oil production, processing agricultural products, mining and related processes, etc.

In Namibia the rural population depends on agriculture as their source of income and livelihood. The urban dwellers on the other hand depend on employment both in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. The major industrial operations in Namibia include: manufacture of fertilizers, paper and wood products, textile, cotton products, general engineering structures and machinery, glass products, leather goods, plastic and rubber products, explosives, food, drinks and tobacco products, fisheries, mining and quarrying agricultural, hydro-electricity power generation, construction and allied repairs, distribution, transport and communications, community, social and personal services.

Manufacturing is a potential dynamic contributor to the Namibian economy. While the country’s relatively rich and forestry resources have been already significantly exploited, manufacturing and mineral resources remain largely unexploited and could constitute one of the pillars of future economic growth if adequately managed. The combination of a rich and largely unexploited natural resource base, a relatively low population density and the low level of infrastructure development have so far spared Namibia from many of environmental problems which afflict its neighbours. Due to the low level of urbanization and industrial development the country has been spared from significant urban and industrial pollution problems.

However, rapid population growth and the opening up of economy are likely to lead to significantly higher demands on the country’s resource base and some degradation is already apparent. In this situation the government committed to upgrade the importance of the police focus and strategic priority of the environment. By addressing the institutional arrangement planning and management process, the government intends to improve the efficiencies of program delivery and avoid the potential for negative effects and risks to the environment. As key issue the environmental impact studies need to be introduced in the process of projects development in Namibia.

Key agencies in the environmental assessment
Due to the cross-sectoral nature of environmental issues, varies ministries and agencies are involved in environmental affairs. Overall coordination and oversight of environmental affairs will be assigned to the directorate environment affairs in the ministry of environment and tourism. The ministry of agriculture, water and forestry (directorate forestry) and the ministry of environment and tourism (department of natural resource) are the key agencies in the area of natural resource management. The ministry of health and social services will be responsible for the formulation of pollution and occupational standards, and the local authorities will be responsible for the water supply and sanitation. The environment department’s charter as defined by the government policy needs to consolidate to provide it with the mandate to actively intervene in overall environmental management.

Department of environment’s role needs to focus to permit it to adequately address environmental issues. It requires carrying out a wide range of activities that includes:

– policy coordination for science and technology;

– provision of support services in the areas of information and computer training to other agencies;

– design and implementation of industrial and meteorology standards; and

– coordination and inter-ministry facilitation of environmental affairs.

The directorate environment affairs will act as secretariat to the interministerial working group which aims to provide an institutional arrangement, advises and recommendations on environment and resource use issues. The interministerial working group has members from relevant line agencies and should be headed by the director of environment, who would report through the line minister to the Prime Minister Officer.

Resolution made by the interministerial working group covering resource use conflicts and related issues would require endorsement by the Prime Minister.

Major decisions of environmental consequence such as construction of a new hydro-power facility would be refer to the interministerial working group which would be use the analyses prepared by the environment department and others submission from other agencies, including committee for planning and cooperation and line ministries as basic for decision making. The interministerial working group will have an important role in identifying policy a programe issues, reviewing the impacts of programs and technical issues and making recommendations concerning their solution. The interministerial working group has an important galvanizing effect on developing intersectoral and interagency processes. The line ministries, particularly the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Ministry of Works and Transport should be responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of environmental assessment procedures within their respective sectors. This will include a responsibility for ensuring the:

– preparation of sector-specific guidelines and standards for environmental assessment within the parameters established for national system by the Directorate Environment Affairs, e.g. sector-specific guidelines for screening, initial environment evaluations, mandatory environmental impact studies, monitoring and environmental responsibility clauses in contracts.

Presentation of these specific guidelines and standard should occur based on consultation and agreement with the Directorate Environment Affairs;

– prompt screening all project proposals submitted by public and private sector implementing agencies in their respective sectors;

– early and effective involvement in initial environmental assessment and mandatory environmental impact studies by resource managers from affected sectors and by representatives of affected communities;

– information provided in initial environment evaluations and mandatory environmental impact studies;

– cost of all stages of assessment and monitoring are well defined, accounted for, and clearly attributed;

– environment responsibilities of private and public sector implementing agencies are clearly established and reflected in their legal agreement with the government; and

– project monitoring carried out in an affective and cost-effective manner; line ministries may be chosen to share project monitoring responsibilities with implementing agencies.

Environmental assessment system

There is a number of compelling reasons why the government should develop its own national environmental assessment system:

– The proliferation of donor-financed and guided environmental assessment has so far or no government control over the design or the implementation of these assessment studies;

– In the absence of a completed national system and standards for environmental assessment, the various donor-financed studies are done to many different standards, which makes it difficult to evaluate one against another without further detailed analysis and interpretation;

– As private investors play an increasingly important role in the development of industrial mining, hydro-power and infrastructure sectors, there will be a need to ensure that potential environmental effects of such investment projects are minimized. This requires a well defined set of procedures guiding impact assessment and monitoring requirements.

– There is no formal system for involving resource manager from other sectors, local communities or other interest groups in project assessment at any stage of design, planning or implementation.

Consideration of risks in the environmental impact assessment system

The goal of the government environmental assessment system is to minimize unnecessary economic; environment, and social cost of economic development efforts and to contribute to high quality decisions about the allocation of scarce financial and human resources. Considerations of risks in the project development determine in accordance with the general guidelines for the application of environmental assessment processes in the government of Namibia. These guidelines would orient the development and application of procedures for key sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, energy, transportation, industry and mining. Prediction of risks takes place in procedures of initial screening of all proposed projects, scoping and design of environmental studies, conducting initial environmental evaluation of a limited number of projects, conducting mandatory environmental impact assessment for major projects. The screening processes include evaluation of the principal component activities of a proposed projects in the context of what is known of the environmental setting in which they would take place.

Sectoral screening should provide answers to the following questions:

– What are the proposed activities?

– Where will these activities be carried out and how?

– What is the principle bio-physical and socio-economic parameters of the environment that may effect?

– What environmental effects may expect to occur, given these activities and environmental parameters?

– What are the probable environmental effects of possible malfunctions of accidents that may occur as a result of the projects?

– What components have received from the public regarding possible project
effects?

– What economically and technically feasible measures are available for mitigating serious diverse effects?

The scoping procedures should entail the identification of “indicators” or measures of important bio-physical or socio-economic components that are likely to be responsible to the proposed activities. A process of scoping studies of bio-physical impacts should:

– determine whether components of the ecosystem will be affected directly or indirectly;

– determine whether it is possible to try to study these effects directly;

– examine how these effects may be studied indirectly; and

– determine what kind of indicators may be necessary or helpful for studying effects indirectly.

Socio-economic impacts can be dealt with in a similar fashion. Environmental impact studies of major projects include consideration of:

– the environments effects of the project including effects of malfunctions or accidents that may occurs as a result of the project;

– any accumulative effects that are likely to result from the project in combination of other project that have been or will be carried out;

– the significant or seriousness of these effects including their economic cost; and

– Measures that are technically and economically feasibly for mitigating any significant or serious adversely effects, and the economical cost of these measures.

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