Environmental and Social Impact Assessment process
The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process is designed to help government and all stakeholders / Interested and/or Affected Parties understand the potential impacts of proposed developments (positive and negative), give stakeholders opportunities to raise concerns and provide input during several stages of the process, thereby strengthening the process to result in best decisions for Namibia’s sustainable development. Information on ESIAs, guidelines and legislation, as well as frequently asked questions, are available on this website: www.eia.meft.gov.na
Proponents of projects usually contract a company or individual(s) with the appropriate qualifications and experience to manage and run an ESIA. Depending on the size of the project and the expected impacts, one or more specialists may also be contracted, e.g. social scientist, biodiversity specialist, groundwater specialist, archaeologist, etc. These teams or individuals are referred to as Environmental Assessments Practitioners (EAPs).
The first step of an EAP is to register the proposed project on the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT): Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) website: www.eia.meft.gov.na. Furthermore, the Application (i.e. Form) needs to be submitted to the Competent Authority for the specific activities being applied for.
All inputs by stakeholders to the ESIA process must be recorded and addressed by the EAP undertaking the ESIA Application process as per the Environmental Management Act 7 of 2007 and its regulations. The process that the EAP must follow in the ESIA is set out in the table below:
|Opportunity for input by stakeholders (I&APs)
|Identify stakeholders (I&APS) to be informed about the proposed project / activity and EIA process.
|Place notice board(s) at location of proposed development.
|Give written notice of the ESIA to landowner / custodian, communal conservancy / community forest / community fish reserve, regional/traditional authority, and registered stakeholders.
|Advertise the ESIA in two (2) consecutive weeks in two (2) newspapers circulated widely in Namibia. Depending on the location of the proposed project, other methods of reaching out to I&APs can also be considered – i.e. radio broadcasts, flyers, calls and working through representatives bodies to further reach I&APs. This is especially important when projects are in remote rural areas where residents do not have access to newspapers.
|Typically, 14 days are given for comments to be submitted to EAP after the second week newspaper advertisement.
|During the ESIA process, disclose all relevant facts, usually in the form of a Background Information Document (BID) and via one or more focus group meetings and / or open public meetings.
|Written input on the EAP's understanding of the situation, impact priorities, specialists used / needed and any other issues / comments / questions; verbal input at focus group / public meeting.
|Keep register of all Interested and Affected Parties, which forms part of the formal documentation.
|Record all comments to the proposed development as part of the formal documentation. An "Issues and Responses Report" (IRR) needs to be compiled, typically as a stand-along document, reflecting all comments raised with response. Also, written comments to be attached and minutes of all meetings included as Appendices to the main report.
|Check that written and verbal comments have been reflected.
|The initial public participation process (i.e. registration, meetings and comments on the BID) must be completed within 21 days. The consultation process continues through the EIA process as the I&APs must have the opportunity to review the EIA reports later in the process.
|Share draft scoping / ESIA report and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) with all registered I&APS and give reasonable opportunity to comment.
|The Act requires 7 days to be given for public comments at this stage, however it is usual practices to allow 14 days for stakeholders to comment on the draft scoping/ESIA report and EMP. This is where it is important to check that earlier comments were recorded and addressed.
|Again, all comments and responses to the draft scoping report and EMP must be recorded (i.e. updating the IRR) as part of the formal documentation and submitted with the final scoping report / ESIA and EMP.
|If there are concerns that comments are not adequately addressed, then it is important to keep track of the following steps.
|The final scoping / ESIA report, EMP and public comments are loaded on the DEA's website – the documents are then in the public domain.
|Ideally, the stakeholders should be informed when this happens by the EAP, but in practice this does not reliably happen and it is not a legal requirement. If no notice is received, follow up with EAP and ask when the report will be uploaded.
|There are 14 days given to register final comments online at www.eia.meft.gov.na
|If notice is received that the report has been uploaded, stakeholders can submit final comments directly to the Environmental Commissioner's office within this period. It is important to submit comments related to submissions made and not adequately reflected, and particularly to important issues which have not been adequately addressed.
|The staff in the Office of the Environmental Commissioner (OEC) review the EIA documents and may (unfortunately rarely) enlist the help of specialists for their views. A decision is then taken and an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) may or may not be issued (usually with conditions) by the Environmental Commissioner.
|The EAP informs registered I&APs about DEA's decision.
An ECC is issued for three years. For ongoing projects such as mining, there are reporting requirements as per the EMP and any other reporting requirements stipulated by the OEC and the "Competent Authority" – the ministry responsible for the sector, in the case of prospecting and mining, the MME. The OEC also usually requires the EAP to compile and Environmental Performance Reporting document to track compliance with the EMP conditions.
Re-issuing of an ECC for a further three years is usually contingent on satisfactory reporting. The OEC as well as the Competent Authority may also carry out site inspections or commission such inspections. In the case of the OEC, this rarely happens.
If an ECC is issued in terms of section 50 of the Environmental Management Act and you have concerns regarding any aspect, including the issuing itself, there is an Appeal process set out in section 25 of the regulations, the appeal including form 3 must be lodged and paid for within 14 days of notification of the decision.
If you have any evidence of corruption in the management or issuing of an ECC, report the matter to the Anti-Corruption Commission: https://acc.gov.na/; Tel: +264 61 435 4000; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
When the assessment process is completed and an Environmental Clearance Certificate is issued by the Environmental Commission, and provided all other permits and approvals have been secured (e.g. a valid prospecting license from the Ministry of Mines and Energy) a land-owner or custodian cannot prevent the prospector from entering their land, but the land-owner / custodian should request a formal Agreement guiding this access. This should ideally already be requested during the EIA process outlined above and included in the EMP.
The access Agreement should include conditions to ensure no unnecessary damage occurs to the land and its natural resources. If the EAP is competent, such conditions and commitments should be included in the EMP which becomes legally binding. The Agreement can then refer to the EMP.
This information is from: Guidelines for landowners and custodians (e.g. communal conservancies) to better engage in the Environmental Impact Assessment process and to manage and control access to their land as may be requested by prospectors and other developers. Document compiled by the Namibian Chamber of Environment and EnviroScience. Updated October 2023. Download the guidelines document.