Namibia: Epale Against New Sand-Mining Project

14 December 2020

RESIDENTS of Epale village at Oniipa constituency have asked the government to revoke an environmental clearance certificate approving the digging of new burrow pits for sand mining in their village.

In a petition submitted to the Ministry of Environment in October, concerned residents of Epale village are calling on the ministry to consider the impact of the proposed sand mining activity on the environment.

The ministry granted a clearance certificate to the Ondonga Traditional Authority (OTA) to undertake sand-mining activities in Epale village at Oniipa constituency.

The residents now claim that the ministry erred when it approved the environmental clearance certificate application earlier this year.

According to the petition, the OTA "outright" violated the Environmental Management Act of 2007 by providing misleading information to the environmental commissioner and failing to consult extensively with affected and interested parties to get the necessary consent, as required by the law.

"No notice was given such that all potential interested parties and affected parties are provided with a reasonable opportunity to comment on the application for sand mining at the mentioned site," the petition reads.

Before permitting the new sand-mining project, Epale residents are, therefore, asking the environment ministry to instruct the OTA to first rehabilitate the existing illegal burrow pit "to the satisfaction of the interested and affected parties and mend the properties of directly affected residents near the existing pit".

The ministry of environment's spokesperson, Romeo Muyunda, last week confirmed that the ministry had received and was attending to this petition.

He said the minister will pronounce himself on this issue "at an appropriate time".

Reinhold Kamati, who wrote the petition on behalf of the concerned community members of Epale village, said the proposed mining project will have negative effects on the community, as it would leave behind "sand pits all around".

He added that the affected community and interested parties were not consulted on the outcome of the conducted environmental management plan.

Kamati said the proposed sand mining activity could also cause damage to property by hauling trucks, tippers and earthmoving vehicles.

There are already borrow pits in the proposed area, dug under the instruction of the OTA that are yet to be rehabilitated, Kamati said.

According to him, the OTA had also failed to rehabilitate burrow pits in the neighbouring village of Ondando or compensate residents for damages caused by trucks.

"The existing burrow pit, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ondonga Traditional Authority, is already a cause for concern to the residents in the area ... the applicant has demonstrated a no-care attitude to the concern of the residents.

In the past, The Namibian has reported how politicians and business people the north contravened the environmental management laws by conducting large-scale illegal sand-mining operations at villages such as Epale and Ondando, for self-enrichment.

Ondangwa mayor Paavo Amwele and businessman Otto Niimboto were last year charged with illegal mining of sand on 10 hectares of land at Ondando village.

The Environmental Management Act 7 of 2007 stipulates that sand mining may not be conducted without an environmental clearance certificate issued after an environmental impact assessment has been completed.

In addition, for an environmental clearance certificate to be issued, the local community must approve sand mining in their immediate vicinity or communal area.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), in a recent report, states that unregulated and illegal sand mining has become a great environmental concern in Namibia since 2015.

The IPPR report states that the environment ministry was also failing to control sand mining fully, leading to severe destruction of the environment, and with many unrehabilitated sand-mining pits posing a danger to humans, livestock and wildlife.

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