Chapter 1: Environmental Management Framework

 Environmental Management Framework

 1.0 Introduction

The deterioration the country's natural resources and the environment, results in a lot of economic losses. The National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP), published in 1994, estimated that the discounted economic cost of the major forms of degradation, which include soil erosion, deforestation, water resources degradation, fisheries depletion and biodiversity loss amount to over 10 percent of the formal GDP (DREA, 1994). This is quite a substantial income loss to the country (considering the size of Malawi's economy). Therefore in order to address these environmental problems, it will be important to reshape the mechanisms governing the management of natural resources in Malawi.

It has been realised that poverty in Malawi is one of the root causes of environmental degradation. Low agricultural productivity, dwindling smallholder farmlands and escalating input prices have driven the rural poor into destitution and some look to cutting and selling wood as an alternative. Furthermore, continued population growth rate is exerting greater pressure on the environment. Therefore the current government's initiatives for poverty alleviation will be critical to the conservation, protection and sustainable utilisation of the environment and natural resources. This is strategically complemented by a comprehensive environmental policy whose broad objective is to maximize the benefits to be realised from the country's natural resources and the environment for the present and future generations.

Malawi ascribes to the requirements of Agenda 21 as approved at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992.-In this regard, Malawi prepared and adopted a National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) in December 1994. The NEAP is now used as a framework for all development

plans in the country to ensure environmentally sustainable development in line with the strategic objectives of Vision 2020

The NEAP recommended a number of mitigation measures that are outlined in the Environmental Support Programme (ESP) whose main objective is to integrate environmental issues into the country's social and economic development programme. The ESP is being implemented with support from several donor-financing mechanisms started in 1 997.

Parliament passed the Environmental Management Act (EMA), (Act NO, 23, 1996) on 28 June 1996. In accordance with the provisions of the Act, the Environmental Affairs Department is required in section 8 (2) (e), to prepare a State of the Environment Report (SOER) every year. These reports will offer very useful information for environmental planning purposes and other forms of social and economic development programmes. Each district is also required to prepare a district state of the environment report, which will be integrated into the national report.
 1.2  Environmental policy, legislation and institutional framework.

1.2.1 Environmental policy

Malawi's environmental policy provides an overall framework through which sectoral policies need to be reviewed to assess their consistency with the principles of sound environmental management. In particular, the Environmental Policy seeks to 

  • promote the sustainable use and management of natural resources in Malawi;
  • facilitate the restoration and maintenance of essential ecosystems and ecological processes in Malawi;
  • enhance public awareness of the Importance of sound environmental management, and
  • promote cooperation between government, local communities, NGO s, the private sector, church groups and other community based groups in the sustainable use and management of Malawi s natural resources and tote environment (Box 1.1).
Tile policy emphasises empowering local communities in the management of their natural resources, considering that that popular participation in natural resources management results In social equity and promotes direct public investment.

1.2.2 Environmental Legislation

Environmental laws in Malawi have been recently or are in the process of being revised to take into account current trends in approaches to sustainable use and management of natural resources and the environment. Prior to this it was realised that while a major problem with most of the existing laws in the environment and natural resources sector is limited resources to promote their compliance, in some cases however, the problem lays with tile nature and design of the laws themselves. Therefore, appropriate policy and legislative review has been initiated, which will aim to effectively reflect environmental concerns into the overall socio-economic development plans of the country (Table 1.1 ). In addition to this, it is now mandatory to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for projects likely have an environmental impact (Box 1.2

1.2.3 Institutional framework

The Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) is the mandated government institution responsible for the co-ordination of environmental policies and programmes in Malawi established under the Director of Environmental Affairs (Section 9 of the EMA). EAD is also responsible for monitoring development activities in the country and for ensuring that implementation of these programmes is compatible with the principles of sustainable development.

In July 1995 the Government established the Cabinet Committee on the Environment (now Cabinet Committee on Health and Environment) as the high level executive decision-making machinery on environmental matters. 

The National Council for the Environment (NCE) established in section 10 of the Environment Management Act, is the Government watchdog that ensures cooperation of individuals, communities, government agencies and non-governmental organizations concerned with the protection of the environment. The NCE scrutinizes development projects to ensure integration of environmental concerns in all aspects of economic development and reviews and promotes compliance with relevant environmental legislation and promotes compliance with this legislation.

A Technical Committee on the Environment (TCE), established in Section 16 of the Act, provides technical advice to the NCE on a broad range of technical environmental issues that come before it. The Environmental Affairs Department provides secretarial services to the Cabinet Committee, the NCE and the TCE.

In order to maintain effective co-ordination, a system of Environmental Focal Points (EFPs) has been established in virtually all ministries, government departments, the private sector and non-governmental organisations. The Environmental Affairs Department continuously develops mechanisms to enable the focal points to identify key environmental issues to be reported on a regular basis. Thus, the focal points will in future act as major sources of information for the state of the environment reports. In order to meet these responsibilities communication between the network of focal points requires to be strengthened, and government departments need to be encouraged to put more resources into the environmental focal points established within each relevant institution.

In order to strengthen the ability of districts to collect, process and disseminate environmental information and also build local environmental planning capacity, the Environmental Affairs Department is now in the process of expanding its services to all districts. Environmental District Offices (EDOs) established in section 20 of the Environmental Management Act, have already been established in six districts but it is intended to have them established in all districts of Malawi The Environmental District Officers will provide useful information for the state of the environment reports, and spearhead district environmental action plans as mandated by the act.
 1.3 Environmental education' awareness and communication

The promotion of environmental awareness and educating the population about the benefits of sustainable environmental management, including the consequences of misuse of renewable natural resources is an indispensable policy objective and legislative mandate. In this connection government and the NGO community continue to strengthen their environmental education, awareness and communication programmes.
 1.4 Information and monitoring

Sound environmental planning and policy development is hinged up on accurate, up-to-date environmental information and data. The Environmental Affairs Department is given another role of monitoring the state of the country's natural resources; the effectiveness of the natural resources management programmes; and to comprehensively analyse the causes of degradation and misuse of natural resources.

An environmental monitoring programme has been operating for the past four years to monitor and document the potential environmental impact of policy reforms being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in respect to the liberalization of burley tobacco production. The prograrnme is now additionally focusing on monitoring environmental activities to propose mitigation measures against environmental problems that are experienced around the Middle Shire River Catchment. The Malawi Environmental Monitoring Programme (MEMP) will serve as a central mechanism for the gathering, analysis, assembly and dissemination of information required by the government and its environmental management partners to ensure regular situation analysis reports, including the State of the Environment Reports.

Chapter References:

 Contents | Foreword  | Acknowlegdements | Editorial Process
Contributors | Preface | Acronyms  | Overview
Chapters: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | Appendix I
Lists: Maps | Figures | Tables | Boxes | References