This week the Namibian government has made history by taking a landmark decision on behalf of the environment for current and future generations by banning marine phosphate mining for the next 18 months. Cabinet has sited that we must be cautious and that “such mining cannot happen if there is no certainty on what impact these phosphate mining activities could have on the environment.” This is the first time that the Namibian government has taken a stand such as this by making reference to the Environmental Management Act 2007, section 3(2)(k) which enshrines the precautionary principle in law. Cabinet has set a very clear precedent that the Namibian government takes this provision of law very seriously. We thank them for their vision and wisdom.
The Namibian government has also taken a stand in terms of the Constitution, section 95(l) which states that the government must maintain "…ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.” The late honourable Chief Justice, Justice Mahomed described the Constitution in a landmark decision stating that the Constitution "...is a mirror reflecting the national soul/the identification of the ideals and aspirations of a nation, the articulation of the values bonding its people and disciplining its government." Indeed this week we have demonstrated that the soul of our nation has not been lost.
We are one of the few countries in the world with the protection of the environment enshrined in the Constitution. It is our duty to honour, protect, and defend this provision. The living Constitution is the supreme law of our country, which governs the creation of all laws and the interpretation of those laws. Our elected government officials take an oath to uphold, protect and defend all provisions in the Constitution. This week they have demonstrated to us that they take this oath seriously. We thank them.
This week our government has decided that it will not compromise the integrity of our supreme law by promoting industry that will directly and dramatically decrease the sustainability of the living marine resources, leaving behind an ocean that cannot provide for future generations. Phosphate mining of the seafloor is a major concern for leading marine scientists worldwide as it could cause a collapse in the marine ecosystem which provides a very important source of food and jobs in a drought ridden developing nation such as Namibia in addition to being home to one of the most productive marine wildlife ecosystems in the world. The concerns of the scientists have finally been taken seriously, with Namibia taking the lead worldwide to consider science in decision making.
Along with the government, many key stakeholders have stepped up to the plate and taken a stand to raise concerns and awareness on marine phosphate mining, also stating that we must remain cautious as there could be potentially disastrous effects. As many of you know, the Earth Organization along with a larger group of partners have been fighting for the precautionary principle to be employed with regard to Marine Phosphate Mining since 2011. The communities raised their concerns and reflected that the potential cost of going forward with marine phosphate mining would not be acceptable to society. The principle cited by the people was that if society does not accept the cost then the government should not either [Environmental Management Act 2007, section 3(2)(h)].
The decision to place a moratorium on marine phosphate mining has put Namibia as a world leader in wise and cautious thinking in terms of marine mining. Where many other countries have rushed forward in causing irreparable damage to the marine environment by not taking scientific reasoning into account, Namibia has shown wisdom in being cautious. This very caution is exactly how sustainability is achieved. Indeed if this type of decision making continues to take place, we face a bright future. The very sun that is on our flag is the light which Namibia shines for the world to see. We have set the precedent.
Let us continue to be the example for others to follow. May we always stand in the soil of unwavering truth and let justice prevail as the most beautiful blossom.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
Please take the time to send a thank you letter to our honourable Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau who took the lead to ensure that our marine environment is sustainable for current and future generations by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more background information on the hazards of marine phosphate mining, please go here: https://sites.google.com/site/earthorganizationnamibia/action-campaigns/marinephosphatemining