“An Act to make provision for the protection and management of the environment and conservation and sustainable utilization of natural resources of Lesotho and for connected matters,” the preamble to the Environment Act states.
It is the abovementioned section that reminded me of a dire situation in which I have resided for decades: Ha Tšosane dumpsite.
Unfortunately, for over two decades, the residents of Motimposo #30 constituency have been grappling with the presence of the Ha Tšosane dumpsite, an issue that has sparked intense debates within the community.
This dumpsite presents a complex dilemma, pitting potential economic benefits, such as job creation, against the detrimental effects on the environment and public health.
The government’s recent acknowledgment of the problem and commitment to address it are commendable, but there remains a pressing concern regarding the adherence to the Environmental Act of 2008.
In response to the growing concerns and complaints from the local community, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Limpho Tau, visited the area to engage with the residents and listen to their grievances. The community pitso held in April served as a platform for residents to voice their concerns directly to the Minister. It was
during this event that the Minister acknowledged the multitude of complaints and the need for immediate action.
To address the situation, the government allocated a substantial M300 million fund to level and compact the dumpsite. This financial commitment is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, showing that the government acknowledges the seriousness of the issue and is willing to invest in mitigating its effects. Furthermore, the Minister expressed his intention to convene an expert multi-sectoral stakeholders meeting involving local residents, aiming to collaboratively devise strategies for a way forward, which could even include the possibility of relocating the dumpsite. This
approach is commendable, as it acknowledges the importance of community involvement and consultation in decision-making processes.
However, amidst the efforts to tackle the Ha Tšosane dumpsite issue, a critical aspect seems to be overlooked – the establishment of an Environmental Tribunal as mandated by the Environmental Act of 2008. Section 98 of the Act clearly outlines the need for such a tribunal to handle complaints related to environmental matters. It is disheartening that even after over a decade since the Act’s enactment, the government has yet to establish this essential
body. As a result, the community is left without a proper channel to lodge their complaints and seek redress for the environmental challenges they face.
The absence of an operational Environmental Tribunal – which consists of a chairman appointed by the minister after consultation with the Chief Justice, a lawyer with a degree and experience in environmental issues, and an individual with expertise in environmental matters – raises legitimate concerns about the fairness and transparency of addressing environmental issues. Without this crucial institution, residents are left questioning where they should turn to effectively address their concerns.
The establishment of an Environmental Tribunal would not only provide a structured and lawful means for residents to voice their grievances but also ensure that their concerns are taken seriously and addressed promptly.
As residents, we recognize the intrinsic value of a healthy environment and its direct impact on public health and overall well-being. The Ha Tšosane dumpsite issue serves as a stark reminder that environmental protection is not a luxury but an absolute necessity. We cannot compromise the health and safety of our communities for short-term economic gains.
The government’s commitment to allocate funds and hold consultations with stakeholders is laudable, but it is imperative that they also adhere to the laws and regulations designed to protect the environment and safeguard the rights of citizens.
Establishing the Environmental Tribunal should be prioritized as an essential step in addressing the Ha Tšosane dumpsite issue effectively.
Moreover, the stakeholders meeting proposed by the Minister must be inclusive and transparent, incorporating the voices of all community members, particularly those who have been directly impacted by the dumpsite. The input of environmental
experts, health professionals, and local activists should be sought to ensure that decisions made during these discussions are well-informed and guided by the best interests of the community and the environment.
The Ha Tšosane dumpsite issue in our constituency serves as a poignant reminder of the need to strike a balance between economic development and environmental preservation. While the government’s commitment to address the issue is appreciated, the establishment of the Environmental Tribunal is a critical aspect that
cannot be overlooked.
It is essential for the government to fulfil its obligations under the Environmental Act of 2008 and provide the community with a structured and lawful platform to voice their grievances. Only through transparent, inclusive, and informed decision-making
can we hope to find a sustainable solution that safeguards both the well-being of our citizens and the environment for generations to come.
Let us unite to tackle this challenge, so that we cancan enjoy a healthier, cleaner, and more prosperous future.
Honourable Minister, where is the Tribunal?
PS: I’m a resident thus I have a right to vice my concern.