1.1 Malawi is endowed with a diversified natural resource base which includes some of the most fertile soils for agricultural use in Southern Africa. The country has closed forest resources covering about 30 per cent of the land area, abundant water resources and a remarkably diverse flora and fauna, of which the uniquely rich and diverse fish resources stand out. If properly utilized, these resources can provide the basis for sustainable socio-economic development of the country. However, these resources are coming under increasing pressure. There is an alarming rate of degradation of the environment causing significant loss of soil fertility, soil erosion, serious deforestation, water depletion, pollution and loss of biodiversity.
1.2 The above problems are exacerbated by the high rate of population growth and contribute considerably to the vicious cycle of poverty. They also highlight the critical challenges between economic growth on one hand and environmental protection and management on the other. These challenges, compounded by the low level of environmental awareness, provided the catalyst for Government to develop a National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) upon which the National Environmental Policy is based. The legislative support is provided by the draft Environmental Management Bill, 1996.
1.3 The Malawi Government, using a participatory approach, produced a NEAP, which was normally launched on 6th December 1994. The NEAP describes the environmental situation existing in Malawi and recommends a set of actions that should be taken in order to redress the aggravating environmental degradation to facilitate sustainable utilization of natural resources. To operationalize the NEAP, the Government has embarked upon an Environmental Support Programme (ESP) whose overall objective is to integrate environmental concerns into the socio-economic development of the country and to provide for the initial high priority interventions.
1.4 The mandate for environmental policy is derived from the Constitution of Malawi. Section Thirteen (13)(d) provides the principles of national policy and states the environment principles as follows;
"To manage the environment responsibly in order to: -1.5 Malawi endorses and adheres to internationally accepted principles of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration and the 1992 Rio Declaration as adopted by the United Nations Conferences. Malawi is also a signatory to the following environmental conventions: - Convention on International Plant Protection; Convention on Wetland of Significant Importance; Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage; Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); African Convention on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; FAO International Undertaking on Plant and Genetic Resources; United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; Montreal! Protocol for Protection of the Ozone Layer; Convention on Biological Diversity; Convention on Climate Change; and the Convention on Desertification. The nation will continue to accede to internationally acceptable protocols.i. prevent the degradation of the environment;
1.6 The National Environmental Policy does not usurp powers and responsibilities of sectoral ministries, but instead reinforces them and highlights areas of high priority for the nation. The institution responsible for environmental affairs will play a facilitating, coordinating and advisory role in ensuring its implementation and setting of relevant and acceptable standards.
1.7 The National Environmental Policy objectives should be seen as addressing the broad range of environmental problems facing Malawi at the present time. These problems and their relative importance may change over time. For this reason, the Policy will be reviewed and updated every five years.
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