Environmental Act partly ambiguous

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-Part of the Environmental Management Act of 2007 on the preparation of environmental plans by organs of state contains ambiguities and does not clearly state that the intention of the section of the Act is for such organs to undertake strategic environmental assessments on their plans, policies and programmes.

Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said this has created a degree of confusion and the ministry would clarify this in the revised regulations that are currently being developed for the Act.
He noted the ministry is however ready to assist all offices, ministries and agencies (OMAs) in the formulation of strategic environmental assessments or environmental plans.

He revealed that only three strategic environmental assessments were received from OMAs in 2016/17.
These assessments were for large-scale bush thinning and value addition through the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, the development of Walvis Bay port through the Namibian Ports Authority and the Zambezi Integrated Regional Land Use Plan through the Ministry of Land Reform.

He noted the lack of staff and regional presence as some of the major constraints affecting the ministry to monitor and enforce compliance to the Act through inspections. Thus, he says, there is a need to urgently address the issue.

Nonetheless, the public are responding well to the Environmental Management Act of 2007, as the Office of the Environmental Commissioner continues to be flooded with a high number of applications by those in need of environmental clearance certificates.

Shifeta, who in the National Assembly tabled the report on the 2016/17 implementation of the Act, revealed that overall applications for environmental clearance certificates continue to increase.
He reported that in 2016/17 the Office of the Environmental Commissioner received 578 applications for environmental clearance.

Shifeta noted that his request to table the report stems from a Cabinet decision from August 2016, which directed OMAs to adhere to the provisions of the Environmental Management Act of 2007 and further directed the ministry to report back on the progress made in this regard in complying with the Act.

The Act aims to promote the sustainable management of the environment and the use of natural resources by establishing principles for decision-making on matters affecting the environment and to provide for a process of assessment and control of activities, which may have significant effects on the environment.
Shifeta reported that overall applications for environmental clearance certificates continue to increase.

He said this represented an increase of 24 percent from the previous year.
“The volume of applications from OMAs for environmental clearance certificates increased by 32.6 percent during the same period,” he said.

However, he said there are still some OMAs not in compliance with the Act in terms of applying for environmental clearance certificates for listed activities, particularly with regard to resource removal, including natural living resources as per Section 27 (2) (c) of the Act.

He said that a few applications for environmental clearance certificates were received from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and their parastatals during 2016/17.

Moreover, Shifeta noted the requirement for proponents to submit applications through competent authorities is leading to delays in the process, with some competent authorities lacking the systems to receive the applications and submit them to the environmental commissioner.

He says the engagement of competent authorities in the environmental impact assessment review process has also led to delays in some cases.

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