All current illegal sand mining activities in the Uukwambi Traditional Authority, as well as countrywide, should end from today until the operators have obtained an environmental clearance certificate.
Environmental commissioner Teofilus Nghitila said this to the traditional authority which falls under the leadership of chief of
Uukwambi, Herman Ndilimani Iipumbu, during a meeting at Ukwangula in the Omusati region yesterday.
Community members without portfolios within the Uukwambi Traditional Authority were asked to leave the meeting, which started off very tense.
Nghitila schooled the traditional authority on the dos and don'ts when dealing with land for commercial purposes. He also told the authority to tell operators to stop forthwith, or face the full wrath of the law.
"Illegal sand mining is not allowed. We are going to stop it," he stressed.
The Environmental Management Act of 2007 states that a person cannot undertake the activity without obtaining an environmental clearance certificate (EIA). For an EIA to be successful, the majority of the affected community must not object to it.
According to Nghitila, the ministry has served some operators with a compliance certificate. If they do not comply, those who are found guilty of the offence face 25 years' imprisonment or a fine of N$500 000, or both. They are still to establish the number of those guilty of the act.
Although Nghitila said he had informed police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga to have perpetrators arrested, Ndeitunga told The Namibian yesterday that he is still to be informed about the operation.
Nghitila's trip to Uukwambi comes after the media reported last month that the residents of Ekamba had through their spokesperson Lukas Nantanga said they are against the unsustainable use of natural resources, and need the practice to come to an end as it does not in any way benefit the community.
Residents have also accused the headman in Ekamba and Onegongo for failing to give them an audience, and to justify the sand mining activities.
Illegal sand mining left behind deep pits which are dangerous to both livestock and people. The activity destroys the landscape, mahangu fields and grazing land.
Nghitila told the gathering that he is not against sand mining, but wants it to be done procedurally. That means those currently involved should apply for an environmental clearance certificate which is valid for three years. It takes less than a month for it to be issued.
He also emphasised that his office will not approve any sand mining that will be done on crop farms as this is destroying the livelihoods of other people.
Like any environmental clearance certificate, Nghitila will not be issuing any if the majority of the community members are against it, and has been submitted in the report presented to his office.
Iipumbu applauded Nghitila for schooling them. He said the understanding of the act would assist traditional authorities in making sure the environment is well-kept.
Last month, the traditional authority admitted engaging in illegal sand mining, which sand they sold to individuals and construction companies for N$100 per truckload.
Illegal sand mining is a lucrative business, with construction companies and individuals making millions from selling sand that they mine without permission.
The Ondonga and Uukwambi areas of the Oshikoto and Omusati regions have been accused of selling sand for as little as N$300 to business people, who later sell it for nothing less than N$1 500 to developers and contractors in urban areas.
The community members also questioned what happens to the money that is realised through these sales.