Need to reinforce environmental laws

To create a platform for regulators and industry experts to share best practices relating to environment management, an Environmental Compliance Conference (ECC), in line with the current legislation, is slated for the 5th and 6th of March in Windhoek.
    This second instalment of the conference, following the first which was held last year, is organised by the Intelligence Transfer Centre and aims at creating a clear understanding of what is expected from industries in terms of environmental compliance in Namibia.
It will be attended by high level Government officials, as well as various industry experts to discuss topics such as ensuring effective implementation, enforcement and monitoring of legislation. It will also provide an in-depth ministerial view regarding the pending environmental levy.
The delegates will further evaluate the role of local authorities in terms of environmental management while analysing the international environmental law and role of the media. Other aspects of the conference will include looking at how the industry can positively influence environmental compliance.
Geological Survey of Namibia’s Dr Gabi Schneider expects the conference to allow a better awareness and understanding of environment laws, hence a better compliance would be fostered.
She notes environmental awareness compliance matters are still not firmly embedded in the minds of Namibians.
“Such a conference is therefore important even in a country like Namibia, where the protection of the environment is enshrined in the Constitution and we are therefore at the forefront of environmental protection worldwide,” she says adding, there can never be enough studies, as the environment is such a complex thing and our scientific understanding is also forever changing and growing; research is always an ongoing phenomenon.
She admits when it comes to the geological environment, there is still a lack of understanding and that people take for granted what is below their feet.
“Since Namibia is not prone to earthquakes and does not have active volcanoes - dramatic geological events - a certain amount of ignorance is almost understandable. However, many people have jobs in the local minerals industry and because of our spare vegetation, geology is always visible. Therefore, there should not be lack of awareness.”
Namibia has good laws and the Environmental Management Act and its regulation prescribes Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAS) for almost every activity, Dr Schneider says. “However, the weakness still lies in the fact that we have understaffed ministries that cannot always deal with the identified risks and the implementation of the subsequent environmental management plans. Furthermore, we do not have enough inspectors and some are not empowered to do what they need to do.”
Therefore, there should be a continuation of awareness at all levels and an improvement of the capacity of State organs to enforce the good laws and policies, asserts Dr Schneider who will be presenting a topic at the conference titled, ‘Tackling Environment Geology in the Context of National Geological Survey’.