THE Economic and Social Justice Trust (ESJT) learned through the print media that Namibia Marine Phosphate (PTY) LTD was granted an environmental clearance certificate for phosphate mining. It is not clear if the Environmental Commissioner is obliged to announce such a decision publicly as the public only became aware of his decision after the appeal period had lapsed.
Judging from the Cabinet’s moratorium on phosphate mining based on the precautionary principle, it is obvious that marine phosphate mining has dire consequences for the environment. The competent government authority on the marine environment, through its Minister Hon. Bernard Esau stated in the National Assembly that such mining poses high risks to the marine ecosystem. The Minister further stated that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources did not receive an application for an environmental clearance certificate as per the Environmental Management Act (No 7of 2007). Furthermore, the Minister did not prescribe conservation measures as outlined in the Act.
Various marine biologists pointed out that marine phosphate mining would have devastating long term effects on the environment. The Economic and Social Justice Trust (ESJT) therefore calls for the withdrawal of this certificate without delay. The ESJT is convinced that the granting of the environmental clearance certificate is not only legally, but morally and economically flawed.
TheEnvironmental Commissioner’s office is situated within the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The Hon. Minister has sworn to uphold the Namibian Constitution at all times. This includes article 95 (l) which prescribes the maintenance of ecosystems, biological diversity and sustainable use of natural resources for current and future generations. The minister is further compelled to respect the laws of Namibia. It is evident that some provisions of the laws were ignored in granting of this certificate. Most importantly, the majority of Namibians, especially the thousands employed in the fisheries sector and those concerned with Namibia’s long-term development prospects do not approve of this certificate. We fail to understand how the Environmental Commissioner did not consider the many concerns raised. Instead, the proponents of the marine phosphate project were allowed to conduct their own biased environmental assessment studies which constitute a classical conflict of interests. While the Environmental Management Act makes provision for public scrutiny of the Environmental Commissioner’s decisions, the appeals process is clearly prohibitive. The charge of N$ 1000.00 to even lodge an appeal is discouraging in a country with a huge economic divide like Namibia. This is undermining the right of all citizens regardless of their economic abilities to hold public officials accountable and to subject their powers to administrative review.
The Economic and Social Justice Trust (ESJT) therefore calls on the Minister of Environment and Tourism to set aside the environmental certificate in the interest of the rule of law, the protection of public interest and in the interest of environmental sustainability.
The Minister has the opportunity to restore public trust in institutions of the State by adhering to its mandate of protecting Namibia’s natural resources in the public interest. We cannot allow individual private interests driven by short-term profits to endanger and undermine our country’s development prospects. Private interest groups must not be allowed to capture state institutions to further their own narrow interests.
Chairperson, Economic & Social Justice Trust
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