Written by Chinsinsi Cheketa
Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change, Dr Michael Usi, Friday spoke tough on individuals who he said are deliberately defying laws aimed at protecting the environment in the country.
The Minister was reacting to concerns raised by Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) Board Chairperson, Dr Robert Kafakoma that some big fishes are encroaching protected land designated for dumping sites, among other environmental injustices.
Dr Kafakoma decried a number of challenges said to be negatively affecting the authority’s role of protecting the environment, such as non-compliance by many city and district councils on disposal and management of waste.
He said MEPA relies on lead agencies who include district councils on environmental protection issues, but weak enforcement of laws by among others failing short of designated dumping sites, is leading to serious environmental degradation.
“We also have some industries who continue to dispose off waste into undesignated places and some developers pushing to embark on projects without following necessary environmental and social safeguard procedures in line with the Environmental Management Act (EMA). This negatively affects our operations”, said Dr Kafakoma.
He was also quick to mention that politicization of environmental and natural resource management issues is one among the major challenges affecting enforcement of environmental protection laws, citing an injunction on thin plastics ban which has now stayed in courts for over three years.
“An injunction on the ban of production and use of thin plastic is affecting enforcement, we understand the injunctions provide temporary relief, but we are not sure of the period of the relief. Till today, we cannot enforce the ban on plastics and the environment continues to be degraded” he added.
However, Dr Usi said no one is above the law, as such, MEPA should enforce environmental protection laws and report to his ministry any individual who sits on the authority’s way in the course of protecting the environment.
“Problems which emanate from climate change as a result of mismanagement of the environment affect every individual in this country, and if we are to stop nature from hitting back, we should act on those destroying the environment”, said Usi.
He said, “The behavior of taking the citizens as potential voters is retarding development of this country, as we mostly fail to punish some individuals for fear of losing votes”.
Dr Usi has since lamented that the devastation caused by Cyclone Freddy in Southern Malawi, is a result of environmental mismanagement, adding that it will take time for the country to completely heal from the disaster.
Meanwhile, the minister has promised to have a roundtable discussion with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, on the possibility of expediting the case on an injunction of thin plastics ban, and engage with other relevant stakeholders, as some issues mentioned involve other ministries.
MEPA, Friday hosted a media and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) sensitization breakfast on its roles and responsibilities at Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe.