A month after the ministry of environment put a lid on two sand pits, illegal sand miners are already suffering withdrawal symptoms.
Illegal sand miners in the north have demanded that the environment ministry reopens the closed-off pits, or provide them with alternative ones to use.
In their petition submitted to the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) northern branch chairperson Tomas Koneka Iindji this week, the business people said they are not happy with the suspension of the sand clearance certificate of Iiheke yaNakale and Onanime borrow pits by the environment minister last month.
Indjii has confirmed receipt of the petition to The Namibian, which is signed by over 60 business people.
The environment ministry's spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, yesterday told The Namibian that environment minister Pohamba Shifeta received the petition, and will be addressing the business people today at the Ongwediva Trade Fair Centre.
For the business people, illegal sand mining is a lucrative business, with construction companies and individuals making millions of dollars from selling sand that they mine without permission. But for the communities in which they operate, it has turned into their worst nightmare. Others see it as a form of economic growth.
"We are demanding the opening of these two pits with immediate effect. Contractors are affected, as they were busy with the construction of mass housing in the northern regions. This has come to a standstill," the petition reads.
The group further claims that there are foreigners who are also awarded tenders for the construction of houses and roads, but their private pits are not suspended.
"The suspension of the two pits by the environment minister delays the developments and progress of the affected northern towns, Oshakati, Ongwediva, Ondangwa and Oshikuku," the group argues, adding that this move has affected about 1 500 workers who had lost their jobs.
"The government must always provide alternatives whenever the government awards tenders to the contractors. We are tired to be called [sic] illegal sand miners, because we are just supplying sand to the main contractors busy with the construction of mass houses".
The Environmental Management Act of 2007 states that a person cannot undertake the activity of sand mining without obtaining an Environmental Clearance Certificate, which is issued after an environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). For a clearance certificate to be issued, the majority of the affected community members must not object to it.
Since last year, The Namibian has visited various areas where sand mining is taking place. Most of the people engaging in this activity do not have an Environmental Clearance Certificate. Some have gone as far as mining into graves for sand, while others had their homesteads swallowed by sandpits, and had to be relocated.