Namibia: New Sand Mining Regulations in the Works

THE Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism is in the process of crafting new regulations for sand and gravel mining following a national outcry about how sand and gravel extraction activities are being done.

This was announced by environment minister Pohamba Shifeta in parliament last Thursday.

"These incidents have not only caused serious destruction to the environment and loss of livelihoods to some communities, but it has affected some developmental projects.

"Precious lives have been lost especially children playing in these unrehabilitated pits, hence our reasons to enforce strict compliance," Shifeta said.

The new sand and gravel extraction regulations are being developed under the Environmental Management Act (Act No. 7 of 2007).

Shifeta said once adopted, the regulations will implement stricter measures and procedures, as well as ensure that culprits are punished accordingly.

The Namibian last week reported about deadly sandpits at villages in the northern regions, where residents detailed incidents of children drowning in them after they collected water.

Such reports and complaints by residents have escalated over the years.

Popular Democratic Movement parliamentarian Johannes Martin asked Shifeta about an environment clearance certificate that was issued to the Ondonga Traditional Authority to undertake sand mining activities at the Epale village in the Oniipa constituency, Oshikoto region.

Martin asked why the environment ministry processed the application despite detailed irregularities highlighted by community members. He also asked Shifeta whether he would give an audience to the aggrieved community members.

In October, residents of the Epale village in the Oniipa constituency, Oshikoto region, submitted a petition to the environment ministry to revoke an environmental clearance certificate approving the digging of new sand pits in their village.

They also cited issues that were overlooked, violations to the Environmental Act, and alleged misleading information that was provided to the environmental commissioner during the application process.

"Considering all thi, minister, all the affected and interested parties requested your audience and urged your ministry to reconsider the decision about the issued environmental clearance certificate," Martin said.

Shifeta said his ministry takes the matter and allegations seriously, and that all evidence provided will be considered during a hearing.

He added that the environment ministry has over the years withdrawn and cancelled a number of environmental clearance certificates where non-compliance to conditions and environmental management plans were observed.

Shifeta also said the ministry, with support from law enforcement agencies, have managed to close a number of sites where illegal sand mining was being carried out.

Ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said the ministry expects to complete the new regulations in the next two to three months.

"The implementation may only start towards the end of the year," Muyunda said.

In the meantime, the ministry will continue to implement the current strategies until the new regulations are in place, he added.

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