The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has this financial year issued five compliance orders to companies that were in direct contravention of the Environmental Management Act of 2007. The companies were operating without environmental clearance certificates.
The non-compliant companies were La Mer, the developers of the Swakopmund Waterfront; Sand Works; MTB Bricks and Sand; Kunene Building Supplies and Fkarstens. The latter two were quarrying illegally south of Windhoek.
The environmental commissioner, Teofilius Nghitila, yesterday told New Era that the developers of the Swakopmund Waterfront were doing construction work without complying with conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance certificate.
He said the developers are still defying the order, but the ministry is closely checking up on them for them to comply.
“Other companies were mining sand in Groot Aub without an environmental clearance certificate. Since they were quarrying without a certificate, they had to apply for one, which they did,” he noted.
The Environmental Management Act came into force in 2012 to regulate, inter alia, environmental aspects pertaining to the mining industry.
The process was boosted after allegations of pollution at the Tsumeb smelter surfaced. The Act was previously criticized for supposedly limiting economic or income-generating tourism activities.
The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, said that over 300 clearance applications and 145 mining claims have been processed during the current financial year.
This trend, he said, should continue during 2016/17 so that the ministry is able to enhance service delivery, ensure that all developments are efficiently handled and that they have the least possible impact on the environment.
“I am pleased to see that we have become more visible on the ground in terms of monitoring compliance with the Environmental Management Act and we are also now starting to show teeth in terms of our regulatory capacity,” Shifeta noted.
Further, he said, during 2015 the ministry embarked on a region by region inspection in line with its obligations in terms of the Act and the management of waste in particular. Almost 100 sites have so far been inspected, he said.
“We are aware of the need to step up these inspections and I am confident we will improve further on this aspect in the 2016/17 financial year,” Shifeta said.
The minister says they have improved capacity and efficiency in dealing with the ever-increasing demand for environmental clearance certificates.
Activities that may not be undertaken without an environmental clearance certificate include energy generation, transmission and storage; waste management, treatment, handling and disposal, and mining and quarrying.
Other activities are forestry, land use and development, agriculture and aquaculture, water resources development, hazardous substance treatment, handling and storage, military demonstrations and the constuction of cemeteries and camping, leisure and recreation sites.
The Environmental Management Act of 2007 clearly states: “When an application is made for an environmental clearance certificate, the environmental commissioner must … within the prescribed time, decide whether the proposed activity requires an assessment.”
Thereafter, assessments must be undertaken for activities which may have significant effects on the environment or natural resources.