Govt failing to protect assets

Poaching, illegal logging and forest harvesting, as well as illegal sand mining, have come to characterise Namibia's struggle to maintain its natural assets in the face of climate change.

26 October 2020 | Local News

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



A new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) blames the loss of wildlife, forests and sand through illegal activities squarely on the failure of government to safeguard these natural assets.

“Despite a constitutional obligation to protect Namibia's natural wealth, relevant and mandated authorities have, for the most part, not lived up to this obligation and the country has over the years suffered enormous natural capital loss as a result,” the report, titled 'Depleting Natural Capital: How Namibia has been losing wildlife, forests and sand through misgovernance and maladministration since 2015', said.

It said poaching, illegal logging and forest harvesting, as well as illegal sand mining, have come to characterise Namibia's struggle to maintain its natural assets in the face of climate change.

“Much of the damage to Namibia's natural capital that has escalated since around 2015 can be attributed to a failure of governance - government departments and entities that have struggled, underperformed or failed in their custodial or regulatory mandates or functions concerning the safeguarding of some of Namibia's most prized natural assets.”



Reporting maladministration

The IPPR said the aim of the report is to map publicly reported examples of underperformance, misgovernance and maladministration within responsible government entities as a means to highlight the practices that are contributing to Namibia's deteriorating natural capital base.

It illustrated this through an overview of events, incidents and statements from 2015 to 2019/20 in which environmental degradation as well as natural resource-related corruption has become pronounced.

It said while the number of poaching cases has fluctuated, with an upward progression since 2015, the number of arrests has increased markedly.

Arrests between January and July this year already stood at 363, with indications being that 2020 could become by far the worst year in terms of poaching and wildlife crimes arrests on record.

“This should be an indication that despite state efforts to discourage poaching and other wildlife-related crimes, through supposedly increased and stricter policing and stiffer fines and sentences, many and increasing numbers of people still view such illegal activities as lucrative.”



Millions of hectares lost

The report said over the last few decades, Namibia has lost millions of hectares of forest cover due in large part to slack enforcement of regulations or unregulated logging and harvesting.

“Forestry officials have consistently disregarded the stipulations of the Environmental Management Act in the awarding of timber harvesting permits, while a lax approach to enforcing the provisions of the Forest Act has also contributed to Namibia becoming a conduit in the illicit, cross-border trade in African timber.”

Furthermore, deficient or the complete absence of regulatory coordination and communication among various government departments has been illustrated to be a major contributor to governance failure in forest management.



'Slow and erratic'

On illegal sand mining, the report said despite being on their radar for most of the last decade, environmental authorities have been slow and erratic in dealing decisively with the destructiveness of unregulated and illegal sand mining operators.

“On the one hand, it appears the environment ministry is battling a combination of poverty, greed and ignorance in especially rural areas in trying to protect the natural environment, and on the other, the official approach has been one of lax and reactive enforcement of environmental regulations.”

The report said this lax approach has contributed to sand mining getting out of hand in some northern parts of the country as it seems to have emboldened operators to disregard the stipulations of the Environmental Management Act and to operate with impunity.

Deficient or a lack of coordination and communication between various national and local level government authorities, including traditional authorities, has characterised the official response to illegal sand mining, it added.

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