MEPA championing the protection of environment

BY BROWN MDALLA - Environmental degradation has led to the increase in number of social challenges affecting people’s lives that might be averted if people had diligently sustained the ecology. Such issues have on the other hand, led to the loss of readily available resources such as firewood energy source, resulting to introduction of alternative energy sources such as solar power, biogas, windmills, efficient cooking technologies among others.

Malawi Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) created following the revision of a 1996 Environment Management Act in 2017, is up on its heels. The authority in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change ensures that any alternative energy sources being embraced are also subjected to regulations to prevent challenges that might accompany them.
MEPA Acting Deputy Director General, Michael Makonombera, applauds organizations that innovatively introduce alternative energy sources in the country, he says are pivotal in combating environmental degradation that has left people susceptible to natural disasters and strange infections. 
He, however, says as much as the organizations’ move is progressive MEPA will still ensure that such energy sources and organizations that provide them are thoroughly scrutinized and monitored. 

Makonombera expresses pleasure that since MEPA’s inception, most organizations are complying with the national environmental standards and regulations. He adds that currently, most organizations and government entities whose works have a bearing on the environment have started incorporating experts in their works, citing the big projects and programmes being spearheaded by the government Ministries and Departments.

“If there are matters of non-compliance to issues of environmental protection, there are a number of things that are done, including giving them a period to rectify the existing gaps, if they fail we give them serious warnings and if they still fail we give them punishments. There are punishments to any insubordination such as, penalties or closure of the concerned institutions,” he says.

He says, the institution was created to ensure that the environment is sustainably managed through the Environment Management Act (EMA) which was repealed in 2017 to close gaps that existed in the previous Act of 1996 and also to accommodate some emerging issues in the environmental management sector. He explains that the current Act which was passed in parliament is aimed at strengthening issues of environmental management in the country.

MEPA Deputy Chief adds that the parastatal executes two duties which are regulation and enforcement of the current Act, work that is done through Environmental and Social Assessment and inspections.
“Organizations that pass our assessment procedures are therefore approved and then provided with certificates, allowing them to start their operations. Besides that, we also play an advisory role to organizations on how best they can safeguard the environment and mitigate their impacts while executing their projects,” he explains.

Approving organizations to kick-off their operations is not sufficient on its own, Makonombera stresses that, the MEPA regularly deploys inspectors to check if the organizations indeed adhere to matters of environmental and social impacts.

To ensure smooth operations of the MEPA that currently has a 10 interim members of staff, there is also a Board of Governors that provides oversight and policy direction. Meanwhile, MEPA has acquired an approval of its structure also called Warrant of Establishment, from the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) which allows them to start recruiting its permanent staff.

In addition, the MEPA also formulated conditions of service and salary structure for its prospective employees and will soon be working on recruitment plan which will include crucial positions for the MEPA which will include the Director General and three Directors who will in turn recruit their subordinates. 

As much as MEPA is doing all it can to ensure that the environment is protected, he complains over the existence of pressure and conflicts from various quarters who don’t want to follow procedures as set in the Act.. 

“Politics also affect operations of the MEPA. As a semi-autonomous body, it could be better if we were left alone without any political influence so that we are only answerable to an independent Board,” he complains.

(0) Comments

Leave a Comment