Windhoek — The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is determined to ensure Namibia returns to its glory days of enjoying its former status as the cleanest country in Africa. Namibia has lost its historical title of being the cleanest country in Africa due to the increasing amount of waste accumulating along its national roads, in towns and in villages.
In this regard, Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta this week said government had identified the issue of waste management as a priority area in the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5).
"Crucially, we need to bring back our reputation as the cleanest country in Africa. This will enhance our reputation among tourists and improve the quality of life for our citizens in urban areas. For this to occur, we must decisively tackle the problem of littering and the improper management of waste, particularly in our urban areas," Shifeta said.
He disclosed that the ministry was currently in the process of finalising a National Solid Waste Management Strategy to transform how Namibia managed waste in line with the principle of reduce, re-use and recycle. Currently, Namibia is ranked 10th among the cleanest countries in Africa, down from the number one position it held for a number of years.
The ministry was working closely with municipalities and local authorities to make this a reality.
Last week, the ministry held a clean-up campaign at Omuthiya and they now had a programme in place for undertaking such campaigns in collaboration with a number of local authorities.
Shifeta encouraged Namibians to stand up and take action to protect the environment. Further, he urged - particularly the national and local leaders - to mobilise people into adopting environmentally friendly ways of life.
"This is in recognition that our environment is significantly threatened by human activities, such as population growth, deforestation, pollution, littering and biodiversity loss through wildlife crimes, amongst others," he added.
The increasing amount of litter does not only have an environmental effect, but also gives a bad impression to tourists and visitors alike, he noted.
Shifeta said with over 50 percent of the population is now estimated to live in urban areas in Namibia and there was a need to ensure that urban populations remain connected with nature and broader environmental protection.
"Urban areas can become centres for environmental degradation through air pollution, littering and inappropriate management of waste, as well as through pollution of our precious water resources. I am particularly concerned that this tendency is now occurring in our towns and cities across the country," he said.
In his view, this needs to change and urban areas have to capitalise on the economic and social opportunities by becoming greener and developing in harmony with nature. He saidthe transition towards renewable energy and more sustainable forms of public transportation, for instance, could help the country reduce air pollution and become more energy secure in a manner that protects the environment.
The need for Namibians to embrace responsible water use has been much publicised and is essential while the country works towards developing long-term appropriate water security solutions, such as managed aquifer recharge and desalination, he added.
Additionally, he noted that climate change poses a threat to the environment and its impacts were devastating, particularly for a country such as Namibia, as the local people and the economy are heavily dependent on natural resource-based sectors, including agriculture, livestock farming, fisheries and tourism.