Illegal sand mining divides Uukwambi

Traditional authority claims it consulted 40 years ago

17 May 2018 | Environment

The Uukwambi Traditional Authority is on the warpath and has threatened a pressure group that is demanding answers to the illegal mining of sand for commercial purposes that has left a trail of environmental destruction in its wake.

The traditional authority yesterday furiously responded to a Namibian Sun exposé about the illegal activities that have reportedly continued unabated, while the government has been accused of ignoring the environmental destruction.

Uukwambi chief Herman Ndilimani Iipumbu denied allegations made by the Iiheke ya Nakele committee, which had demanded transparency, including where the sand miners had received the authorisation from to conduct their activities.

The traditional authority yesterday said it used the proceeds from sand mining to buy coffins. The committee had alleged at a meeting held at Ekamba on 5 May that sand was being mined without the community's consent and that the proceeds were not benefiting locals.

However, the traditional authority claimed yesterday that negotiations around sand mining had taken place 40 years ago and there was no need to hold fresh talks on the matter.

“The so-called committee of Iiheke ya Nakele should cease to conduct illegal meetings aimed at insulting and tarnishing the good image of the Uukwambi Traditional Authority and its leaders,” the statement reads.

“That burrow pit came into existence in the year 1978, the community concerned was duly consulted through community meetings with the late Fillemon Amwaani and Johannes Nelumbu who were the headman of Ekamba and Onenongo villages respectively during that time, therefore the claims of non-consultation hold no water.”

This argument clearly contradicts the Environmental Management Act of 2007, which states that all government institutions, companies, other organisations and individuals that are involved in the planning or undertaking of listed activities, including sand mining, must apply the principles outlined in the Act.





This means that anyone who wants to mine sand must be in possession of an environmental clearance certificate, which is issued after an environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been completed successfully.

For an EIA to be successful the majority of the affected community must not object to the proposal or the environmental commissioner will not issue a clearance certificate.



Proceeds

Meanwhile, the traditional authority also contradicted itself when pressed about the funds collected from sand mining. At first, Iipumbu claimed they do not sell the sand, but later acknowledged that companies were being charged N$100 per load.

However, some sources claimed companies pay as little as N$300 per load to local traditional authorities and sell it for as much as N$1 500 or more to developers and contractors in urban areas.

The traditional authority also refused to entertain questions when asked whether the size of the truck was used to determine the cost.

The traditional authority claimed that it had used the sand mining proceeds between 2011 and 2016 to purchase 16 coffins.

Some of the local farmers have complained of losing livestock in the massive pits left behind by sand miners. This reporter came across a dead goat in one of the pits at Ekamba.

Iipumbu maintained that the pits were not dangerous and attributed livestock deaths several years ago to the seasonal efundja flood.

He also said the traditional authority had rehabilitated some of the pits by refilling them.

“I can take you to some areas where there were burrow pits and we have filled them up and is that not protecting the environment?” Iipumbu questioned.

KENYA KAMBOWE