WINDHOEK - A number of gaps and shortcomings have been identified in the implementation of the Environmental Management Act of 2007.
The Department of Environmental Affairs is seeking to address these through an amendment to the Act and the revision of its regulations. Among the key issues identified is lack of reference to strategic environmental assessments in the Act. The strategic environmental assessments are normally taken on the levels of policies, plans and programmes and there is currently no provision in the Act for such assessments. These shortcomings are revealed in the report on the implementation of the Act for the 2017/18 financial year compiled by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
Other shortcomings include limited guidance on procedures and processes for the issuing of fines to companies and institutions that do not comply with the provisions of the Act. Another issue is the need to expand and categorise the listed activities under the Act to improve the efficiency of implementation. Further, the report highlights key issues of regulation of environmental assessment practitioners with concerns of them not being regulated and lack of quality control in the sector. The Act does not mention these practitioners.
Equally, the report indicates that key issues of roles and responsibilities of the competent authority in Section 32 (1) of the Act requires proponents to submit applications for environmental clearance through the competent authority. “This provision has caused delays in the process and have led to the need for closer collaboration between the department of environmental affairs and these authorities,” it states. The process to amend the Act and its regulations started in October 2017 with six stakeholder workshops with three different groups of stakeholders-offices, ministries or agencies of government, private sector proponents and environmental assessments practitioners, as well as civil society representatives.
This informed the development of the draft documents of the proposed amendments to the Act; revised regulations and the expanded and classified listed activities.
It reveals that about 82 sites were inspected during that period; mainly in the regions of Erongo, Hardap, Kavango East, //Kharas, Khomas, Omaheke and Zambezi. These covered a wide range of sites including waste disposal sites, mines, sand mining operations, clinics, hospitals, tourism operations, schools and hostels. A total of 24 compliance orders and notifications were issued during the 2017/18 financial year. However, the report shows that illegal sand mining continued to be a serious concern during that period.
The environmental affairs department held a number of awareness meetings with traditional authorities in the communal areas on the issue. As a result, new procedures were developed and are being applied for sand mining in communal areas. “These procedures seek to improve compliance and involve a detailed questionnaire and allow for traditional authorities and regional councils to be the proponent on cases of sand mining. These procedures will be fully implemented in 2018/19,” the report indicates.