Shifeta warns sand miners

The environment minister has warned sand miners that they may be sued for any damages arising from quarries that are not filled in.

11 November 2019 | Environment

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta has warned sand miners that they will be held responsible for any deaths caused by their damage to the environment.

He said sand miners are pretending not to understand the environmental laws regulating their business.

Shifeta was speaking at the launch of the Road Authority's (RA) sand quarry rehabilitation project at Ongha in the Ohangwena Region.

The RA has embarked upon a nationwide project to rehabilitate open quarries where sand was excavated for road building.

Lawrence Kiggundu of Namu Consulting, who is overseeing the project in the Ohangwena Region, said since the introduction of the Environmental Management Act the department of transport and the RA have adopted an environmental manual which requires contractors to restore any environmental damage caused during construction.

“This project is the outcome of an investigation done throughout the country to locate all the pits that have not been rehabilitated.

“Many of our roads were constructed before independence and that time there was no environmental law that required rehabilitation of burrow pits.

“When the environmental law came into effect it required rehabilitation of all environmental damage, therefore the department of transport and RA came up with environmental manual,” Kiggundu said.

“As per the environmental manual, any construction project design has to incorporate environmental issues to be sorted out during the construction.

“That also includes all existing burrow pits that were left open from previous road works. This will be done in consultation with local leaders,” he said

In Ohangwena Region alone, there are 119 sand quarries that must be filled. Some of these pits are now being used by illegal sand miners.

Shifeta welcomed the initiative by the RA, saying that it's against the Environmental Management Act to leave behind open quarries that people and animals can fall into.

“Somebody who causes damage to the environment must pay the cost associated with that environmental damage, including the human cost.

“I have been warning these sand miners that one day someone will go to court and claim for loss of life due to the environmental damage caused by them. This can be either a car that fell into a burrow pit or someone who was trying to draw water from the pit,” Shifeta said.

“You will not only pay for the damages caused by the environmental damage, but will also have to rehabilitate the area so that it cannot cause further damage.

“We just have to make sure we start implementing the law so that people will not do things with impunity. Right now people are pretending not to understand.”

Shifeta said ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse because laws are gazetted for people to learn about them.

He said sand quarrying is listed as a mining activity and therefore must be done according to the laws regulating the mining sector.

ILENI NANDJATO

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