13 February 2013

Namibia: Poor Implementation of Environmental Laws

Windhoek — The Africa Institute for Environmental Sound Management of Hazardous and Other Waste said African countries face many challenges when they have to implement international environmental agreements.

According to Executive Director of the Africa Institute, Dr. Taelo Letsela, many countries sign and ratify international environmental conventions, yet lag behind in the implementation of such legislation.

"Implementation in their countries is very poor because these conventions require domestication through national policies, laws, programmes and institutional re-alignment. Yet we know that these are rarely ever achieved in our part of the world," Letsela said at a recent three-day Regional Workshop on Chemical Legislation and Management for English-Speaking African Countries that was held in Windhoek.

The workshop was held in partnership with the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI). Challenges faced in the effective implementation of these agreements range from poor legal instruments, resource limitations, lack of policies, skills shortage, overlapping and sometimes conflicting institutional responsibilities, fragmentation within the regulatory framework and poor or no adequate management or regulatory systems.

"The findings suggest that these countries, because of these pervasive problems of poverty and underdevelopment have prioritised economic development over environmental issues. This is not surprising yet it is a double ended sod," the Africa Institute executive director said. He said poor environmental management cause poverty and poverty causes environmental degradation.

"To break it we need strong determination and strong political will. No mountain is too high to climb, as long as there is determination and will," Letsela said. The Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta confirmed, Letsela's statement on African countries lagging behind in implementing international environmental agreements.

"If we are honest, Namibia like many other African countries, is lagging behind in the implementation of these ideas and agreements, particularly when it comes to the handling and management of hazardous chemicals and pollutants," Shifeta told workshop participants. According to the deputy minister, Namibia faces challenges in many areas, including inadequate management capacity, legislation, regulatory systems, overlapping and sometimes conflicting responsibilities between government institutions, skills and capacity constraints and lack of financial resources.

Industries such as mining use large quantities of chemicals, mainly in mineral extraction processes and in the use of explosives, as well as agriculture, which uses fertilisers and pesticides to mention only a few. "Nonetheless we must be aware that some chemicals can severely damage our environment if not properly managed and used," Shifeta warned.

According to Shifeta, the healthy functioning of ecosystems and the beauty of the country is also put at risk when hazardous chemicals are mismanaged. He said the country must make sure that adverse effects on its precious water and soil resources are minimised from the usage of hazardous chemicals. Namibia is party to the Basel Convention on the Management of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, just to mention a few.

Participants in the workshop included representatives from Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria.

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