Shifeta laments local waste management systems

Shortfalls need to be addressed
There is an urgent need to improve waste management in Namibia.
Ellanie Smit
Waste management in Namibia is not satisfactory, with many settlements, villages, towns and municipalities lacking adequate landfill sites, and resorting to dumpsites for waste disposal.

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta said this at the Commemoration of the World Clean-Up Day held Saturday in Etosha National Park. "We are aware of efforts from some local authorities trying to find different ways of disposing of residential and domestic waste, but still, this remains a major constraint. There is scope for improvement in all three municipalities, and there are particular shortfalls with waste collection from informal areas."

Shifeta said the ministry recognises the urgent need to improve waste management in Namibia.

Effective management

The Environmental Management Act (EMA) highlights waste management as one of the essential aspects of environmental management in Namibia.

EMA provides the strategic basis for waste management and requires that all public and private institutions put in place effective waste management systems to avoid damage to the environment and negative human health impacts emanating from waste.

It is estimated that every year, more than 2 billion tonnes of waste are dumped across the plannet. "Poor waste management, ranging from non-existing collection systems to ineffective disposal, causes air pollution, water and soil contamination."

Polluting essential resources

Shifeta said open and unsanitary landfills contribute to the contamination of drinking water, cause infection, and transmit diseases.

He said the dispersal of debris pollutes ecosystems and reduces the aesthetic value of the surrounding environment. Inappropriate disposal of dangerous substances from electronic waste, medical waste or industrial garbage puts a strain on human and animal health and the environment.

In 2019, the ministry launched the National Solid Waste Management Strategy. This strategy is crucial to ensuring that future directions, regulations, funding, and action plans for improving solid waste management are properly coordinated and consistent with national policy. It also aims to facilitate cooperation among stakeholders.

Sustainable uses

That same year, government also introduced a plastic bag levy.

The money collected from the levy goes to the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF). "Discussions between the ministry and the EIF are currently underway to explore the possible utilisation of the collected levies for funding initiatives that protect and promote responsible environmental management, pollution control, waste management, and the sustainable use of natural resources for economic development," said Shifeta.

He said that prior to the introduction of the levy, government had banned the use of plastic bags in game parks and national parks. Apart from reducing plastic pollution, the ban also encouraged individuals and businesses to adopt more sustainable practices and promote the use of alternative materials. "Subsequently, the government is in consultation with stakeholders to put in place modalities for a complete ban on the use of single-use plastics in the country,” he said.

More needs to be done

In 2018, President Hage Geingob launched and nationalised the Clean-Up Campaign under the theme "Namibia, Healthy and Clean."

Shifeta warned, however, that tough clean-ups alone will not solve the pollution crisis. He said that promotions and enforcement of change in human behaviour through repetitive exposure to awareness campaigns and legislation are necessary, as is creating awareness.