Govt 'will protect the ocean'

The president has sought to allay fears about the health of Namibia's marine ecosystem because of the prospect of seabed phosphate mining.

25 September 2019 | Environment

President Hage Geingob has stressed Namibia's commitment to protecting the ocean and the country's fishing sector.

This is amidst growing fears in the country that a proposed phosphate project might receive the green light to start with seabed mining near Walvis Bay. Many are of the opinion that phosphate mining would cause irreversible damage to Namibia's fishing industry, which is a pillar of the country's economy.

Geingob, who was speaking at the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy in New York, said Namibia had committed US$5 million (N$74.3 million) towards ocean research and protection during the 2019/20 financial year.

That included US$2.3 million (N$34.1 million) to facilitate research into fish stocks and the marine ecosystem, and a further US$2.7 million (N$40.1 million) to intensify the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and to improve ocean governance.

He said Namibia was committed to increasing national per capita fish consumption to the global average of 20.4 kg by 2020.

“We have already increased per capita national fish consumption from 4 kg in 2014 to 15.4 kg in 2018.”

In addition, Namibia, Angola and South Africa, together with development partners, have committed US$3.8 million (N$56.4 million) for maritime research activities under the Benguela Current Convention (BCC) for 2019/20 financial year.

Geingob further said Namibia was committed to ensuring that at least 10% of the country's exclusive economic zone would be gazetted as a marine protected area by next year.

He said Namibia's entire coastal belt is a national park which includes three coastal Ramsar sites: the Walvis Bay Lagoon, Sandwich Harbour and the Orange River Mouth.

According to Geingob Namibia is one of the countries with the greatest potential for wind power generation, especially around the coastal town of Lüderitz.

Namibia is committed to generating approximately 144 MW of wind power by 2022.

Geingob said Namibia is in the final stages of ratifying Annex Six of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which includes 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from ships by 2050. This is in line with the International Maritime Organisation's Agreement.

He said the threat that climate change poses to the ocean is a common challenge that requires collective action.

“Let us act together and with urgency, to ensure our ocean continues to support sustainable global climate. The livelihoods of our people and humanity depend on our collective ability to take urgent action to sustain our oceans.”

Geingob recently promised Omani billionaire Mohammed Al Barwani, who is the majority owner of Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP), that there would soon be a final decision on their application for an environmental clearance certificate.

This follows a letter in which Al Barwani, whose net worth is believed to be over N$16 billion, expressed concern to Geingob about the delay of the Sandpiper Marine Phosphate Project after its environmental clearance certificate was set aside last year.

The Sandpiper Project is located about 120 kilometres southwest of Walvis Bay.

The High Level Panel brings together world leaders who recognise that economic production and ocean protection must be mutually supporting if we are to “produce, protect and prosper”.

ELLANIE SMIT

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