The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta has cautioned against illegal sand mining, saying all sand mining activities currently being undertaken in the north are illegal operations that need to be closed down because the miners have not obtained an environmental clearance certificate.
Currently, many sand miners operate with permits issued by the traditional authorities.
“Authorization or a permit from the village headman or village headwoman does not allow you to mine sand if you have not obtained an environmental clearance certificate first,” said Shifeta.
Shifeta was speaking at an information sharing session at Ongwediva Trade Fair on Monday, where he cautioned that illegal sand mining is a violation of the Environment Management Act. Those found guilty would be liable for a N$500 000 fine or 25 years imprisonment or both.
Shifeta dismissed allegations that acquiring an environmental clearance certificate is a lengthy process. According to the minster, the environmental commission has set deadlines to attend to the application. The minister attributes the delay to individuals’ failure to comply and pay their consultants on time.
According to the minister obtaining the environmental clearance certificate is crucial to protect the environment and to ensure the environment is rehabilitated thereafter.
“The area can either be fenced off or levelled so that the area no longer poses a danger to the community,” said Shifeta.
The minister also said that the ministry has embarked on ensuring that all dumpsites or waste disposal areas are registered with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
He said local authorities are mandated to register dumpsites within their localities, else are deemed to be illegal.
According to the minister the ministry officers have closed down such illegal dumpsites, but have not yet prosecuted anyone.
“We are going to enforce the Act and prosecution is possible,” said Shifeta.
The minister further cautions individuals wanting to convert sand mining pit burrows into earth dams to acquire an environmental clearance certificate.
According to Shifeta, the set regulations were not enacted to put stress on the business community, but instead to protect the environment.