The Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET), Pohamba Shifeta, has not ruled out the possibility of laying criminal charges against TransNamib management, for allegedly failing to comply with the Environmental Management Act of 2007.
This follows the recent derailment of a goods train in the Dorob National Park, transporting toxic acid from Walvis Bay to Rössing mine.
Cargo wagons overturned due to sand on the railway tracks, causing sulphuric acid to spill in the park. The incident raised the hackles of the MET as the custodian of Namibia’s natural environment. Sulphuric acid is a very corrosive and poisonous chemical.
Shifeta said although TransNamib was issued with an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) in 2014, which is valid for three years, they failed to inspect the railway to ensure the passage of the dangerous substance would be safe, which is required in terms of the law.
“I was informed that TransNamib management apparently does not do inspections,” he stated.
“The area is sensitive because of sand dunes. The rail should be inspected to ensure it’s clean before transporting any chemical,” he added.
He said it’s high time Namibians take the Environmental Management Act seriously, adding that culprits breaking the law would be dealt with and have to “face the music”.
“We will not leave any stone unturned. Anyone or any company found wanting will be taken to task. I want to warn the board of directors that they have a duty to take care of the environment and not endanger the lives of Namibians,” he said.
He would however not say whether a criminal case would be opened against TransNamib.
“The possibility of criminal charges against the company is there. People who are responsible will be fined depending on the extent of damage to the environment.
If gross negligence is found against individuals, it can be transformed into criminal charges after investigations are done.
They can be taken to task depending on whoever was responsible,” Shifeta said.
Rail inspection is one of the conditions stipulated in the Environmental Plan.
When environmental officers arrived at the scene of the derailment, TransNamib was already busy rehabilitating the area, he said.