Tuesday 17 September 2019
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The Benguela ecosystem is Namibia’s Amazon

Mr Knowledge Katti of the Namibia Marine Phosphate was thoroughly irritated by my views on seabed mining. Since the appearance of the article in the Namibian newspaper of Friday, 23 August in which I told the scribe Shinovene Immanuel that phosphate mining is a no go area, Mr Katti bombarded me with text messages accusing me of all sort of social problems faced by the people of our country.
He accused me of not doing anything about the missing GIPF money; of politicking; of protecting my fish quo, I wish I had one; of tolerating corruption, I wish I had power to stop it; of allowing Debmarine to deploy five ships to mine diamonds on the sea floor; and he blamed me of tolerating the alleged fishing companies stealing fish and of not paying due taxes. He claimed that his phosphate company shall be paying annual company tax of N$ 780 million.
I would like to state publicly why I object to seabed mining whether by Debmarine or by Namibia Marine Phosphate. My objection is based on Article 95 of the Namibian Constitution. This Article mandates the “…maintenance of ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilization of living natural resources on sustainable basis for the benefit of Namibians, both present and future”. My concerns are based on the nature of Namibia’s marine environment.
The Namibian marine environment is dominated by the Benguela upwelling system.
This system was documented by A. L. Sakko of Swakopmund in the article titled: “The influence of the Benguela Upwelling system on Namibia’s marine biodiversity”. This article appeared in the authoritative Biodiversity and Conservation publication of 1998. Sakko’s study described how the Benguela system influences the Namibian marine ecosystem.
The Benguela system extends from Cape Agulhas in South Africa to the Angolan port of Namibe.
The Namibian coastal line is about 1500 km long. The Benguela system is divided into Southern Benguela and Northern Benguela Systems. The southern Benguela system extends from South Africa to Luderitz. The northern Benguela system extends as far as the Kunene River.
The two systems have their own characteristics. The northern Benguela system is influenced by the meeting of cold water from southern Atlantic and the warm water from northern Atlantic. This condition is said to be responsible for the dynamic habitant in that sector of the Benguela ecosystem. This dynamic habitant is said to have irregular anomalies in temperature, salinity and oxygen concentration which leads to extreme instability and unpredictability of environmental factors.
The whole Benguela ecosystem is characterized by upwelling of cool water from the depth of the ocean which upwells when the southerly winds move surface water northward.
The cool water from the depth of the ocean wells up to replace the surface water. The upwelled cool water contains shelf sediments of organic matter. When these sediments are exposed to light they facilitate the growth of phytoplanktons or micro- organisms which support marine life.
According to Sakko, the diversity of phytoplanktos found in Namibian waters have a high nutrient content and are more adapted to the turbulent conditions of the Benguela system.
The biodiversity of the Benguela system depends on the interaction between the upwelling deep water with light and the upwelling is induced by shore south-eastern winds.
Any disturbance of this interaction is likely to negatively affect the marine ecosystem of the Benguela system. A case in point is the condition known as Benguela Nino. This condition, which is natural, is created by the upwelling of deep ocean floor water which lacks in oxygen to continental shelf.
This condition causes substantial mortality of marine organisms. The condition decreases the availability of planktons and leads to fish mortality and poor spawning.
Seabed mining is likely to lead to frequent occurrence of the Benguela Nino. Seabed mining shall interfere with the organic matter on the sea- bed.
The organic matter is the basis of marine life as it supports the production of planktons. Fish feeds on planktons. Other marine creatures survive on fish including the sea birds which produce guano.
The whales and the other sea mammals shall be affected. The fishing sector shall be threatened. Currently the value of the fishing sector constitutes around 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Angola, Namibia and South Africa in 2013 established the Benguela Current Commission to jointly manage the Benguela Marine ecosystem.
Moreover, the Benguela Current is said to play a significant role in global oceanic and climatic processes through heat transfer from the Southern Hemisphere to Northern Hemisphere. In this regard the Benguela Current is a common heritage of mankind. It is so to say our Amazon Forest.
It was against this background that the Namibian National Commission of UNESCO applied to UNESCO World Heritage Committee to declare the Benguela Current Marine Ecosystem as a World Heritage Site.
Whoever is going to make a decision on seabed mining should take cognisance of the fact that countries sharing The Benguela Current Marine Ecosystem have to satisfy themselves that they will not be negatively affected. In addition further cognizance should be taken into account when Namibia applied for this ecosystem to be declared a World Heritage, Namibia did so on the basis that “ …the high levels of primary productivity of the system supports an important global reservoir of biodiversity and biomass of zooplankton, fish, sea birds and marine mammals”.
There stands Namibia’s responsibility! Mr Knowledge Katti and his partners in Namibia Marine Phosphate should take all these factors in consideration. The Benguela ecosystem should remain pristine for the benefit of future generations!

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