Individuals excavating sand illegally, and those who have until now engaged in the lucrative sand mining business without valid documentation will soon face the full wrath of the law.
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism says it has finalised its consultations with the Namibian Police and village headmen on how to control and penalise illegal sand miners, the Environmental Commissioner Teofilus Nghitila told New Era.
“We have deployed inspectors of the Namibian police already and raised their awareness, [and] we expect them to work accordingly. We are not going to allow this activity to continue like that,” Nghitila vowed.
Sand mining is listed as an activity that a person cannot undertake without receiving an environmental clearance certificate. Those contravening the regulation are a liable to a fine of N$500 000 or 10 years in prison.
“We are left with no choice and we have approached all the regional commanders to enforce the law, so anyone found conducting this business without valid documents risks having the police close the business and face charges of committing an offence,” Nghitila emphasised.
He said the illegal sand mining is not only happening in northern parts of the country but in all parts of Namibia.
“People have now realised that this business is lucrative and have been engaging in this illegal act. We are not saying people should not do sand mining but that they should obtain proper authorisation from our offices,” he said.
The ministry has faced an uphill battle to control this illegal practice, which over the years has left villages dotted with open pits that have not been rehabilitated after the excavation of sand.
The open pits pose a danger to animals and the community while illegal sand mining has also destroyed many mahangu fields.
Nghitila spoke to New Era on the sidelines of the launch of 2017 regional cleaning campaign, which deputy minister of Environment and Tourism Tommy Nambahu launched in conjunction with Recycle Namibia Forum and Omuthiya Town Council.
“Once you obtain a permit this it will indicate that you have an environmental management plan, and that after finishing your activities you will rehabilitate the site.
“We will then have to come and inspect to see if you have done a good job of rehabilitation and minimised the danger of that particular pit to the community.
“But this has not been the case up to now, and our people are not complying with the environmental management Act,” he repeated.
Nghitila condemned the practice whereby headmen receive N$500 to allow someone to start mining.
“This practice should stop, what is N$500? It does not mean that if you have received the authorisation from the headman you have been given a go ahead, No! Therefore, headmen should desist from doing this unless the person has already obtained an environmental clearance certificate,” Nghitila stated.
He however made it clear that they are not out to stop development but rather want to encourage people to operate in an orderly manner and observe the legislation in place.
In addition, he said it was not a problem for those mining sand to build a house somewhere in the village, but what was not allowed was for people to engage in sand mining for commercial purposes without a permit.