23 Jun 2023
The month of June is particularly important for the environment of our planet when the international Day of the Environment is celebrated on 05 June, followed by the World Ocean Day three days later later on 8 June and rounded off with the Desertification and Drought Day on 17 June.
As a drought-pronestricken country with low rainfall Namibia is affected by climate change and has embarked on several actions and adaptation programmes.
It was thus befitting that Namibia’s Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and Forestry, Pohamba Shifeta publicly announced plans this month soon to soon ban single-use plastic bags as well as plastic bottles and straws. After all this year’s theme for World Environment Day was ‘Beat plastic pollution’.
Single-use plastic products to be banned in Namibia are thin imported plastic shopping bags of less than 40 microns as well as plastic shopping bags that contain calcium carbonate. Minister Shifeta said that these plastic bags could be banned by March 2024, once Cabinet grants the approval.
Single-use plastic bottles will be banned by 1 January 2025, and single-use plastic straws will already be prohibited by already from 01 January 2024. Another product to be banned by next January will be ear buds with a plastic body.
“There are evident examples of how plastics have an impact on animals such as livestock and wildlife in Namibia, with mortalities reported as a result of plastic ingestion,” said Shifeta. “Most of the plastic waste ends up in our oceans and accumulate in our food chains through the fish and sea products we consume.
The minister said humans produce over 430 million tonnes of plastic annually, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste.
In Namibia’s different coastal towns several refuse collection campaigns are held during the year, organised by the Ministry of Environment, the municipalities and the private sector.
The Windhoek municipality hands out bags to households to use when discarding where they store recyclable items, which are collected by a private recycling company. However, the recyclable items collected from various initiatives in several regions, are all transported to South Africa. The volumes collected in Namibia are too small to set up a local recycling plant.
On 8 June 2023, Namibia became a member of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It is the first country in southern Africa to join this convention and the eighth African state to become a member of this treaty. Namibia is also among the few countries in Africa where all transboundary freshwater rivers are covered by operational management agreements with its neighbours.
Climate change has accelerated desertification and droughts, which have profound impacts on nations' agricultural output, risking food production and pushing many families into poverty.
This year’s theme for World Desertification and Drought Day on 17 June “Her Land. Her Rights," is gender-focused and, recognises the rights of women to land and their significance in achieving the interconnected global goals of gender equality and land degradation neutrality by 2030.
Women in Namibia make up a huge percentage of the agricultural labour force, hold a vital stake in the health of the land, and are the major actors in Namibia’s efforts to combat desertification and reverse land degradation.
The United Nations held a special ceremony in New York in this regard. Namibia`s Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila was invited. The theme being devoted to women, she outlined the example of the Shackdwellers Federation of Namibia, which an example of creating an creates an enabling environment for women to thrive., being the Shackdwellers Federation of Namibia. It is a network of community-led savings groups, mainly comprising of women, who work together to secure affordable land, shelter and infrastructure services for low-income urban households across all 14 regions of Namibia.
“At every stage, this process is community driven. This community participatory approach complements the work of government to provide access to land and housing, especially for women”, the Prime Minister said.
World Oceans Day on 08 June this year was celebrated under the theme “Planet Ocean: Tides Are Changing”.
Countries have recently agreed in principle to act more decisively against plastic pollution in oceans and to create ocean reserves.
Namibia’s nearly 1,700 km long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean benefits from its fish resources.
Namibia will soon embark on the production of oil, and gas near Oranjemund and the green hydrogen industry near Lüderitz. This requires mechanisms to safeguard the ocean against all harmful practices.
As part of its commitment to ocean conservation, Namibia joined the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which is comprised of 14 member states. Furthermore, to solidify its dedication to protecting the ocean, Namibia launched the Transformations Document for a Sustainable Ocean Economy in 2020, which outlines the nation’s vision for good ocean management. It compels the country to establish and enact ‘sustainable ocean plans’ by 2025. The government has started public with consultations to draw up these plans.
These will include not only the energy and fishing sector, but also tourism. Boat trips and recreational angling are important tourism niche markets.
Recently a Dutch company has embarked on growing an underwater kelp forest in the ocean near Lüderitz. Kelp is important for absorbing greenhouse gas emissions apart from its industrial and medicinal value. The company Kelp Blue plans to eventually cover 70,000 hectares with kelp for commercial harvesting in the ocean bed near Lüderitz. Several previously unemployed jobless persons are now employed there.
In his message for World Oceans Day, Namibia’s President Hage Geingob noted that the country’s economic future and the livelihoods of many inhabitants are highly dependent on the state of our ocean.
“It is therefore important for us to pull together to ensure the sustainability of our ocean and its resources. Now more than ever, it is imperative to collaborate in promoting sustainable development in the blue economy and investing in renewable energy, marine tourism, and sustainable aquaculture for economic growth,” Geingob said.
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