Namibia ratifies ban on import of toxic waste

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-Namibia has joined the rest of the world in the fight against toxic pollution after it ratified the Basel Convection to ban developed countries from dumping hazardous waste in developing countries, whether in solid, liquid or gas form.

Before the amendment to the Convention, it did not prohibit developed countries from shipping hazardous waste to developing countries for dumping purposes.

Seeking parliamentary approval to ratify the Basel Convention in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said the Ban Amendment was introduced to correct this situation.

He said Namibia ratified the original text of the Basel Convention in 1995 and what is required now is only to ratify the new provision (Article 4 a), which was not part of the original text of the Convention.

The object of the Basel Convention is to regulate the trans-boundary movement of hazardous or toxic waste from country to country. Article 95 (l) of Namibia’s Constitution prohibits the importation of toxic waste into Namibia.

For this reason, the environment minister said, Namibia’s ratification of the Ban Amendment was consistent with the Constitution.

In 2014, the Environment Ministry requested advice from the Office of the Attorney General whether to proceed with the ratification of the Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention.
Former attorney general Dr Albert Kawana recommended then that from a legal point of view, ratification of the Convention holds no prejudice to the government and is not contrary to the Constitution or any laws of the country.

“We, therefore, advise that the Government of Namibia may proceed with the ratification process of the said amendment,” Kawana wrote in response.

Shifeta said it was, therefore, not necessary to consult broadly on an issue, as it is in line with the stipulations of the Constitution. However, he said the attorney general had been consulted and that his comments and modifications were incorporated into a document submitted to Cabinet.

He explained that following parliamentary approval, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah would deposit the instruments of ratification at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Shifeta also sought parliamentary approval for the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which aims to protect the environment and human health from mercury pollution. Mercury is globally considered to be a major cause of brain damage, especially in children.

The name of the Convention “Manamata” is derived from Minamata Bay in Japan, which came as a result of scientific studies on the cause of strange mental health disease among fishermen and their families who consumed mercury-polluted fish from the bay.

These studies showed that the source of contamination was a mercury-processing factory, which had continuously released mercury waste into Minamata Bay. Shifeta clarified that the Minamata Convention does not prohibit the use of mercury, but provides for controlled production and release.

He said this was one of the reasons so many countries have signed the Convention. To date, 128 countries have signed it, while 47 have ratified it. Among the SADC countries that signed are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Seychelles have also ratified the Convention.
Concerning consultation, Shifeta said the attorney general and other players, including the Ministry of Health and Social Services, as well as Mines and Energy and the Dental Council of Namibia, were consulted and “no objections were received”.

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