Leave us alone - sand miners

Northern businesses want the Environmental Management Act to be scrapped because it requires sand miners to obtain environmental clearance.

16 November 2018 | Environment

The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (NCCI) Ongwediva branch is unhappy with the way the environment ministry is meddling in the lucrative sand-mining industry and has called for the Environmental Management Act of 2007 to be scrapped.

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta, however, says the law will be enforced and no one will be favoured. Speaking at a consultative meeting yesterday, NCCI Ongwediva branch chairperson Veiko Haimbodi said before the ministry started enforcing the environmental law, sand mining was a good business, but now businesspeople are on the verge of losing their property obtained through bank loans. He said the sand-mining industry created job opportunities for many people, but now these people are jobless. “As the business community we are urging the government to reconsider its decision to implement the Environmental Management Act. Let the traditional authorities continue managing the land and we can continue mining sand as usual, while the government is reviewing this law,” Haimbodi said. “This law needs to be well scrutinised because it is not in favour of the business community. The ministry failed to conduct proper consultations with the affected parties before enforcing this law.” Haimbodi acknowledged sand mining pits need to be properly controlled. “We have lost many people in these pits and I am therefore requesting for them to be fenced off,” he said. Sand miner Reverend Ndalius Kamanya opened the consultative meeting with a prayer. He said he started mining sand in 1992 and he is not happy that they are being labelled “illegal sand miners”. The Environmental Management Act states that a person cannot undertake sand mining without obtaining an environmental clearance certificate (ECC). NCCI northern branch chairperson Tomas Koneka Iindji said he is dismayed about the extent to which illegal sand mining has skyrocketed. He was therefore delighted that the ministry had taken a bold step to address what he called an “environmental cancer”. “In all honesty and good faith, the management of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry's northern region is doing all it can to respond to the calls by various stakeholders regarding sand-mining operations,” Indji said. “The NCCI would like to request the authorities, the businesspeople, the traditional authorities and other critical stakeholders to strike a constructive balance on this issue, with a win-win situation, which both acknowledges the need for service delivery in the construction sector and the uncompromising necessity to preserve the environment.” Shifeta refuted claims that the ministry had failed to conduct public education before it enforced the Environmental Management Act. “This law was introduced in 2007 and when I came to this ministry I found it already in place. The regulation was put in place in 2012 and we have been conducting public consultations. We cannot allow sand-mining activities to carry on because it is not safe for us all,” Shifeta said. “When the law was enforced it had some criminal sanctions for the offender or those who fail to properly enforce it, just like any other law. Let us not hide behind talk that we are not aware.”

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