13 July 2018

Namibia: Coastal Environment At Risk of Degradation

The environment ministry failed to implement environmental management laws and regulations at the coastal towns from the 2013/14 to 2015/16 financial years, the auditor general's report states.

According to the performance audit report on coastal management, submitted to parliament last month, the ministry and other key stakeholders in coastal management also failed to provide assurances to the auditors that "the impacts of climate change on the marine ecosystem were identified".

Currently, the ministry of environment uses a sectoral approach to managing coastal areas.

During the period under review, the report states that "all" coastal local authorities could not provide evidence that they implemented climate change adaptation measures for existing and future developments close to the sea, "which might be at risk of beach erosion and being washed away by strong tides and sea level rises".

Apart from that, the ministry also did not conduct inspections to ensure compliance with the environmental management plans of government departments and agencies operating at and from the coast, and to ensure that the activities of these companies conformed with environmental impact clearances.

These activities range from fishing companies disposing effluent into the sea, salt mining at Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, ships disposing sewage into the ocean, as well as local authorities treating wastewater.

The environmental affairs department in the environment ministry also failed to inspect the Namibia Ports Authority's "syncrolift ship repair yards and bunkering operation", as well as Walvis Bay's dumpsite.

During the audit periods, it was found that the maritime affairs department in the works ministry only inspected 116 out of 3 007 foreign vessels which docked at Namibian ports.

Such inspections are necessary to determine whether ships complied with "essential shipboard procedures relating to the prevention of pollution through oil leakages".

The same department also failed to conduct inspections on mining vessels "as planned, and could not provide evidence that the deficiencies found during inspections were rectified", the auditor general's report stated.

It was also found that environmental incidents were recurring at ports, despite Namport inspections.

The report added that the Swakopmund and Henties Bay municipalities, as well as the Oranjemund Town Council, had no waste management regulations during the audit period, while Walvis Bay and Lüderitz were not in compliance with their own regulations.

All these failures were listed as risks to the environment, and the AG called on the environment ministry and other stakeholders to address the shortcomings within the existing laws to ensure the effective implementation of regulations.

Replying to questions from The Namibian this week, environmental commissioner Teofilus Nghitila rejected many of the findings of the report, saying the auditors ignored explanations provided by the ministry during the audit.

He added that a coastal management policy has been in place since 2013, and the ministry has completed the drafting of the integrated coastal zone management bill, which was approved by Cabinet in 2016.

The proposed law would thus address the shortcomings of existing laws and regulations, and would ensure the effective implementation of the United Nations sustainable development goals on conservation and the sustainable use of oceans.

He added that the proposed law has not been enacted yet "due to concerns from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and is currently before the Law Reform and Development Commission".

Nghitila stated that the ministry was unable to conduct comprehensive inspections during the period under review "due to lack of staff and financial resources".

He added that the issue of compliance with environmental management plans by some state departments and agencies was a "concern that the ministry is continuously trying to address through strengthening our inspections' function, and by raising awareness of the relevant provisions of the Environmental Management Act of 2007".

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