Sunday 20 June 2021
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Preserving the bounty of the environment

Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development must be the cornerstones of the policies and procedures governing the industrial and other major developmental activities in Namibia, just like in other countries that are advocating for economic and sustainable development.

I always used to argue that one cannot talk about economic and sustainable development without mentioning the environment. Environment is always and will forever be at the centre of any development across the globe.

I also fully concur with my President Dr. Hage Geingob when he once argued that we are lacking expertise in the area of environment and resources in Namibia. And it is for the same reason why we still keep debating about the two foreign major projects that are aimed to be experimented in our soil. I am referring to the tobacco project and the marine phosphate mining.

These two proposed projects shouldn’t even been up for debate. They deserved an immediate executive order (similar to those executive orders by President Donald Trump) from the highest office in the land to entirely reject them for this sake of our environment. We got to preserve our environment and its rich biodiversity that we are endowed with.

Studies have established that commercial tobacco growing ended in Australia in 2006. In 2017, Namibia still wants to begin with what Australia has ended. Again, New Zealand and Australia denied applications for marine phosphate mining, Namibia still want to experiment and give it a try. China has completely failed to control air pollution in Beijing, and as of right now, Beijing air quality is beyond repair. It has surpassed Real-time PM2.5 Air Quality Index (AQI). This is due to massive industrial development and the ever-increasing number of vehicles in Beijing.

China has thus recently begun to enforce strict laws to regulate this unbelievable situation. China has started to ensure that no semi-skilled people are allowed to enter Beijing.
These semi-skilled labourers of Chinese origin will be dumped to Africa and Namibia in particular, and we will accept them. What is wrong with us that we are just accepting everything that is rejected by others? When did we become experts to invent and accept things that have been rejected by countries who more advanced than us?

When are we going to start experimenting growing wheat, rice and maize in massive cultivation for major exportation purpose? These are crops that will not only bring job opportunities to our people, but to enable us as a country to become a food self-sufficient country. The whole of North-Eastern parts of our country must be treated as our major biodiversity hot spots.
Commercial tobacco growing involves herbicides, fungicides and insecticides to maximise crop production. Tobacco leads to clearing of the land for cultivation, stripping fuel wood for curing and forest resources for packaging thus damaging the environment.

These are all common practices for commercial tobacco growing that we cannot deny or ignore, no matter how much we try to cook and manipulate our environmental impact assessment reports to gain approval. Tobacco is known for its depletion of the soil nutrients at a very rapid rate and displaces the indigenous flora and fauna thus becoming a source of pests for other crops.
And there is also evidence to suggest that tobacco growing which depletes soil nutrients at a much faster rate than many other crops would undeniably and speedily decreasing the fertility of the soil. Since it depletes the nutrients at a heavy rate, tobacco requires a much larger input of chemical fertilizers, especially potassium.

This would not only be causing severe health problems to people especially those working in the tobacco plantation, but it also decreases the long-term fertility of the soil and pollutes the groundwater and waterways often used by populations downstream. A very fertile natural land with high soil permeability like in Zambezi and the two Kavango Regions would definitely be susceptible to groundwater pollution. There is no argument about this fact.

In many tobacco growing countries, including India where I have studied and saw the barren lands that have been used for commercial tobacco growing, evidence indicates irreparable environmental damage from tobacco agriculture, particularly when associated with the deforestation necessary to increase farmland for tobacco growth and cure tobacco plants. Environmental degradation also results from the tobacco plant leaching nutrients from the soil, as well as pollution from pesticides and fertilizers. Indeed, large and frequent applications of pesticides are required to protect the plant from insects and disease.

In my views, our environmental laws in Namibia are still having lots of loopholes and we need to go back to the drawing board to make it more solid and unshakable. At present, people can lie in their EIA reports to meet the EIA report criteria. And moreover, we need to establish research laboratories under the ministry of environment and tourisms. Furthermore, the environment regulatory agency – in this case the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and the Office of the Environmental Commissioner in particular, must come up with a law that ensures that all the environmental impact assessment practitioners or companies to conduct any environmental impact assessment in Namibia are fully registered with the Ministry of Environment and Tourisms.

Nobody should be allowed to be hired by the project proponent all the way from Europe or Asia to come and conduct environmental impact assessment in Namibia. Those who are to conduct environmental impact assessment in Namibia must be familiar with our natural environment beyond black and white. And our fellow Namibians must be given priority on this. Until when we should keep relying on foreigners? And why do we keep sending our youth to go study abroad if after all I will come back home with my PhD in Environmental Engineering from a developed nation and yet I am still not qualified to conduct an environmental impact assessment at Uuvidhiya? Somebody has to be brought in from Sweden or Finland to come and do environmental impact assessment at our coast.

In conclusion, Namibia needs its own environmental scientists. And we are those people who advocates or work to protect the air, water, animals, people, plants, and other natural resources from pollution or its effects.

The Earth needs us in many ways than any other profession. Thus a coercive leadership style that demands immediate compliance is of great necessity to any developmental activity aiming for economic and sustainable development in Namibia.

*Kassian T.T. AMESHO is a PhD student at the Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Sun Yat-sen University. He holds MSc. Degree in Environmental Science [from North-Eastern Hill University, INDIA], MBA Degree [majoring in Business Ethics and Corporate Governance, RBS South Africa], B.Sc: Environmental Health Sciences, National Diploma in Natural Resources Management [NUST, formerly known as Polytechnic of Namibia].

He has a strong interest in the following research areas: Environment and Sustainable Development, Resources Utilization and Circular Economy, Ecosystem Sustainability, Green Energy, Energy-saving Technologies, Pollutants Reduction, Air Toxicology, Environmental Exposure, Genomes and Health.

Email: [email protected]

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