Windhoek-The Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta says illegal sand mining continues to be a major concern for the government, as many large-scale sand miners leave gapping pits they dug without any rehabilitation.
This, the minister said, poses a danger to both residents in those areas and the environment.
The large-scale illegal sand mining for road and rail construction by parastatals and private companies is particularly considered one of the major a challenge facing the ministry.
Companies involved in illegal sand mining have on many occasions failed to adhere to government’s call to formulate rehabilitation plans and rehabilitate the burrow pits they dug.
Although companies in the country have also been ordered to stop illegal mining operations forthwith and adhere to
the Environmental Management Act 2007, government seems to be struggling to bring culprits to book.
Shifeta says this is so because there is critical need to strengthen capacity and the institutional framework for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Act.
Shifeta however said the ministry is working with traditional and local authorities and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry as well as the Mines and Energy Ministry to address this issue.
He said concerns have been raised from industries such as road construction regarding the need to categorise and classify listed activities according to scale so that the process of applications for environment clearance can be less cumbersome and expensive for more small-scale activities.
Part of the problem in enforcing the Act is that part of the Environmental Management Act of 2007 on the preparation of environmental plans by organs of state contains some ambiguities and does not clearly state that the intention of this section of the Act is for such organs to undertake strategic environmental assessments on their plans, policies and programmes.
In order to address some of the shortcomings identified in the implementation of the Act, Shifeta said the ministry is currently at an advanced stage in terms of reviewing the Act and its regulations.
Shifeta is expected to table these amendments in the National Assembly over the course of this year.
Some of the amendments that a crucial include strengthening collaboration with organs of state and increasing awareness of the Act among all stakeholders, especially local and traditional authorities.
The Department of Environmental Affairs conducted an environmental inspection on the reported mushrooming of illegal sand mining in the northern region between 14 and 19 August last year.
Inspections were conducted at Omaalala, Epukunoyana, Amutanga, and Iikelo villages in Oshana Region, as well as in Okalondo village in Ohangwena and Onandjaba in Omusati.
During that fact-finding mission, the ministry learnt with grave concern of the devastating effects that these illegal sand mining activities have caused, especially to the crop fields.