Following public outcry because of the rampant sand mining, which leads to land degradation that poses a threat to humans and animals, the environment ministry is reviewing the law to tighten all loopholes.
This was said by an angry Environment, Forestry and Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta, who emphasised that the new laws being drafted will enable the ministry to punish perpetrators immediately, citing that the current Environmental Management Act is toothless, making it difficult to react effectively.
“We are busy working on strengthening the Environmental Management Act, so that it can be more biting. We have to create some criminal norms – as currently, some areas of the law are not clear when to fine a person either on the spot or when there is the need to arrest. In the absence of that, it has been difficult for the police to arrest, as there is no legal basis to which they can act. Therefore, once amended, they will have such powers, thus the need to seal all loopholes,” stressed Shifeta, describing the effects of sand mining as terrible.
“Once that is amended, you will be arrested on the spot – just like a poacher, without any favour or prejudice. Thus, anyone found damaging the environment will be apprehended,” he reiterated.
Shifeta could, however, not specify as to when the law will be finalised and enacted.
“The draft is complete and needs to be submitted to Cabinet for approval. It is a lengthy process, as it has to pass through parliament for discussion; thereafter, upon approval, it can be gazetted. So, one cannot really be sure when,” stated Shifeta.
Other measures will include strict conditions to sand mining applicants, such as giving assurance of the capability to rehabilitate a borrow pit.
“Serious conditions will be attached. Every borrow pit will be rehabilitated by the applicant. The applicant will need to give an assurance before being issued with a clearance certificate. Furthermore, the proponent will not be issued with any other clearance certificate until the rehabilitations are complete,” stated Shifeta.
The minister was due to meet community members of Oniipa and Ondonga Traditional Authority (OTA), where sand mining is rife and parties are at loggerheads. The meeting was postponed last week, as the OTA representatives failed to show up.
A disappointed Shifeta tasked the community, together with the OTA, to set up a date when both parties can meet and put the issues to bed. Three months ago, the environmental commissioner shut down a borrow pit and suspended the clearance certificate of the OTA after it discovered irregularities at the site.
To such effect, the OTA was given until 31 August to rectify and comply with the compliance order. The minister’s visit sought to address the issue. “For now, the borrow pit at Ondado remains closed until such a time the matter is resolved. The proponent (OTA) has objected to the compliance order of which the matter is yet to be adjudicated upon for a decision thereof.
“I got their objections, and we also found out that the compliance order had some issues, as it was not complying with the law. So, I sent it back to the environmental commissioner to be rectified – and I believe that has been done. I will, therefore, not dwell much on what the issues are because this is a matter being investigated and worked on,” he added. In addition, he said, the situation is not good at the borrow pits, as the environment is completely damaged.
“It’s a widespread issue as was observed in Kunene and Zambezi, where I also visited. I am, therefore, urging the community to be vigilant and guard against environmental damages. Because such irregular undertakings has far-reaching implications,” he advised.