Illegal sand mining: A crime condoned

Villagers in the Iiheke ya Nakele grazing area in the Oshana Region say illegal sand mining is destroying their environment and the government is turning a blind eye.

08 May 2018 | Environment

The illegal mining of sand for commercial purposes in northern Namibia continues undeterred and the government is being accused of ignoring the environmental destruction.

Illegal sand mining is a lucrative business, with construction companies and individuals making millions from selling sand that they mine without the appropriate permissions.

These companies are said to 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.

Meanwhile, grazing areas like Iiheke ya Nakele in the Oshana Region, which falls under the Uukwambi Traditional Authority (UTA), have been destroyed by illegal sand mining which left behind deep pits that are dangerous to livestock and people.

At the weekend residents from villages surrounding the Iiheke ya Nakele grazing area met at Ekamba village to discuss the matter of sand being mined without their consent.

“Enough is enough, we need to protect our environment,” was their collective statement.

The villagers said they would try all legal means to get justice for the wrong that had been done to them since independence.

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

This means that people who want 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, otherwise the environmental commissioner will not issue a clearance certificate.

At Saturday's meeting the residents expressed their anger and disappointment, saying that their area was being destroyed and they wanted it to stop immediately.

The residents said they were frustrated by fact that the UTA allegedly received payments from the companies mining sand at Iiheke ya Nakele while the people in the community, including the village headmen, were not consulted.

They wanted to know where the money went.

“We want to know who gave the Uukwambi Traditional Authority the mandate to receive payments because we know it is not the law and, secondly, do they care about the environment or not, because by the look of things, that is not the case,” a community member said during the meeting.

They cited a section of the Traditional Authority Act which deals with environmental protection.

During the meeting it was also claimed that people who dared to question the mining of sand in the UTA jurisdiction were silenced by means of threats of being arrested and taken to court.

“Me, personally, I was summoned to appear before the UTA and told straight in my face that I would be taken to court if I pursued this matter. Unfortunately I am not a coward and that is why I am here today,” another community member said.

A number of other accusations of abuse of power by the UTA were made at the meeting. One of these was the alleged dishing out of plots without the consent of the local headman and his committee as stipulated in the Communal Land Act.

“We are tired of being abused by the UTA and we are prepared to take them on by law because Namibia is free and the rule of law must be applied always,” a community member said.

When contacted for comment, UTA spokesperson Reinhold Iita said he could not respond to the allegations before the authority met to discuss the matter.

“For now I do not have any say on that because we did not even meet. We are going to meet on Wednesday probably. The chief called me today but we did not discuss anything and it is very hard for me to go on air saying anything on that while we did not discuss it,” Iita said.

After Saturday's meeting, the villagers went to remove the poles demarcating plots that they said were allocated non-procedurally.

They also decided to block the road to the sand mines at Iiheke ya Nakele until the matter is resolved.

Namibian Sun understands that the environment ministry will be visiting the northern regions to do inspections this month.


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