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Shifeta lists challenges facing Namibia at environmental law book launch

Given the multi-disciplinary nature of environmental issues and the involvement of different government institutions, policy makers and stakeholders – environmental challenges in Namibia are covered by a variety of status and policies.

Pohamba Shifeta
Namibia’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta

This is what the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, wrote in the foreword to the 4th edition of the 2022 revised edition of the book, “Environmental Law and Policy in Namibia”, which was launched in Windhoek on April 20, 2022.

According to Shifeta, Namibia is facing a range of difficult environmental challenges, ranging from land degradation, water scarcity and pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change.

“Addressing these challenges requires all, unequivocal determination on the part of policymakers.

“The law, as a subsequent step to policy and decision-making processes on the one hand and as a basis for enforcement and implementation on the other, is an important discipline in terms of environmental protection and is an essential tool to address environmental problems threatening our country, region and the Planet,” Shifeta wrote.

The book, he wrote, offers a multi-faceted insight into environmental and policy in Namibia and it does this most successfully by taking stock of the existing legal framework and Namibia’s commitment to environmental-related issues at the local, national, regional, continental and international level.

Namibia, he said, has achieved significant milestones in terms of environmental law and policy such as the ratification and implementation of several multi-lateral environmental agreements, the enactment of landmark pieces of national legislation such as the Environmental Management Act, as well as a broad environmental policy framework.

“It is highly commendable that the editors and authors of this book have again eloquently managed to give in-depth updated overview of sectoral and cross-sectoral legislations and policies relating to environmental concerns,” he said.

Apart from several fully revised chapters, some new chapters have also been added to the publication. These included a chapter looking at whether instituting an environmental court or tribunal is an option for Namibia, contributed by Elize Shakalela – an environmental law lecturer at the University of Namibia.

Another new chapter to the book looks at the Namibia’s electricity sector, contributed by Detlof von Oertzen, a Namibian renewable energy and energy efficiency expert and another one looking at Namibia’s wildlife crime legislation, contributed by Willem Odendaal, who is currently affiliated to the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow) where he is working towards the completion of his PhD in law.

In total, the book has 29 chapters and was edited by Professor Oliver Ruppel, who is the Director of the Development and the Rule of Law Programme (DROP) at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa) and Katharine Ruppel-Schlichting, who is a Senior Legal Researcher and Project Coordinator at DROP.

The book was published with financial support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) in Namibia.

The 2019 First Global Report of the on Environmental Rule of Law, released by the Nairobi-based UN Environment, finds that weak enforcement is a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide of over the last four decades.

The report said despite 38-fold increase in environmental laws put in place since 1972, failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges to mitigate climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habit loss.

The says there are multiple factors contributing to poor enforcement of environmental rule and these includes: poor coordination across government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and stifled civic society.

It also noted that there is worrying trend of the growing resistance to environmental laws, and this has been most evident in the harassment, arbitrary arrests threats and killing of environmental defenders.

By Absalom Shigwedha

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