The government may not be effectively monitoring the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which companies develop before rolling out their projects due to inadequate budgetary allocations, thereby putting the environment at risk.
This is according to a draft report by the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa) titled Civil Society Analysis of the 2011 to 2014 National Budget Allocation to Environmental Affairs Department with Focus on Environmental Impact Assessment Sector.
The report shows that ‘despite an increased demand for EIA activities, especially in mining and infrastructure, it was noticed that the trend in resource allocation is unstable. It was funded by Tilitonse Fund to inform policy advocacy and enhance linkages between approved national policies and national budgetary allocations.
“Some years the allocation is increasing while in other years it is highly decreasing. The reduction in resources implies that the department will not meaningfully mitigate or eliminate adverse environmental impact from development projects as provided for in the National Environmental Policy on 2004,” reads the report.
The report also notes that though government collects EIA licensing fees from companies, the fees are those outlined in the Environmental Management Act (EMA) of 1997 which are outdated.
The report further observes that on average, district environmental offices (DEO) monthly allocations fluctuate between zero and K600 000 (US$1 474).
“On this low funding, EDO are expected to conduct monitoring for EIA provisions. This becomes even a bigger problem for districts like Rumphi, Mzimba and Karonga where there are more than three mines and the distances between the mines and district offices are very long.
Apart from revealing that mineral explorations by mining companies holding exploration licences are not monitored, as this is not provided for by the law, the report also notes that monitoring exercises for mining ventures are only done on quarterly basis and are centralised.
“It was also very shocking to learn that government officials are required to give a notice to some of the mining companies before conducting inspection/monitoring visits to their respective mines.
“This is a very sad development as this gives room for mining companies to clean up accordingly in order to cheat the inspectors,” reads the report.
Cepa project officer Evelyn Nkhonjera says to ensure that all EIA are conducted properly and that the developers are complying with their EIA reports and Environmental Management Plans, emphasis should not be only on conducting EIAs but also on monitoring how the developers are complying with what was written in the EIA reports.