This review period heard a call for the nation at large to play its part in jealously guarding the kingdom’s precious environment against individuals and companies who might deliberately or accidentally degrade it. To enable this far-reaching activism a new platform was put in place whereby every citizen can become a whistleblower with guaranteed anonymity.
Called the ‘GreenLine’, this voicemail-based brainchild of the Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA) www.sea.org.sz presents a 24/7, toll-free opportunity for concerned people anywhere in the kingdom to report any form of environmental crime or violation. It was officially launched by the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Jabulani Mabuza, at the Swaziland International Trade Fair where the SEA was an exhibitor. He said that the future of the kingdom’s development was strongly linked to its future environmental sustainability, and pointed out that contrary to the misconception that an emphasis on environmental protection retards development, research shows that countries that prioritise environmental stewardship tend to prosper economically.
Minister Mabuza also cited incidents of intra-community illnesses being directly traceable to issues of the environment such as sanitation, pollution and waste-management. He said that government therefore appealed to all stakeholders to become actively involved and to make use of the platform that has been availed to them to interact with the environmental watchdog by reporting all issues of concern in their communities. He gave an assurance that the SEA would protect the identity of each and every caller.
A representative of the SEA said that the ‘GreenLine’ aims to ensure timely and effective resolution of environmental complaints and will prove to be the most efficient and cost-effective means of ensuring environmental monitoring, this as the public lives at the frontline where most violations occur and will be in a position to report incidents as and when they happen. Should any situation be deemed to pose an immediate threat to public health, the SEA will thus be in a position to act soonest.
In less critical cases, once the SEA has completed its investigation - which may be based on information or evidence provided by a caller - staff will then take the measures needed to correct any problem uncovered. Reports of enforcement- action taken will be published on a periodic basis and the public will be able to pursue communication with the SEA if a problem persists or returns, or if clarification is sought from the organization with regard to legal issues arising from any reported infringement.
In July 2014 and under the auspices of the SEA, nine trucks loaded with drums of obsolete pesticides ferried their hazardous cargo from Swaziland to Durban harbour, en route to Germany and the United Kingdom for disposal there. Swaziland is not Basel Convention certified to destroy these categories of waste. The chemicals, many of which could no longer be identified, had been collected over a period of some years in an exercise undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and during which all farmers holding stocks of obsolete pesticides had been requested to participate.
By the time that the shipping process was ready to commence, many of the original containers were corroded and had begun to leak: these had to be repacked by workers of the specialist removal company involved. A spokesperson for the SEA called on the Ministry of Agriculture to persevere with its awareness-and-collection programme and on all other government, parastatal and private sector stakeholders to replicate its initiative. He described chemical management as a very serious matter, one of the programmes at the forefront of SEA activities and an issue that should be integrated into the national curriculum.
The unwanted legacy of unrestrained industrialisation seen elsewhere in Africa prompted Swaziland some two decades ago to legislate measures controlling developers and manufacturers. The Swaziland Environment Authority was promulgated to oversee the implementation of a national action code based on:
- Widespread and comprehensive public education and awareness campaigns, along with securing heightened levels of rural community involvement
- Enhancing the scope of all existing methods of rehabilitating land made unproductive by over-planting and degraded by overgrazing, deforestation and other causes of erosion
- Improving the management of resources to achieve increased productivity
- Seeking more sophisticated means of best utilising the biodiversity on offer
- Constant reappraisal of the SEA’s own mechanisms and methodologies to ensure efficient management skills regarding waste- and pollution-control with a view to realising optimum environmental health for the kingdom
In addition to strict control over existing components of the construction and industrial sectors, each would-be manufacturer and/or developer is by law required to commission a permission-determining Environmental Impact Assessment under guidelines and monitoring of the SEA.