The Malawi Government has become increasingly concerned about the deterioration of the country's natural resources and the environment. There are economic and aesthetic losses associated with this degradation. A major environmental and developmental challenge, therefore, is how to narrow the gap between the degradation of the natural resources and the environment on one hand and sustainable production and economic growth on the other.
The Government, through a comprehensive participatory process involving the Private Sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local communities and government institutions prepared a National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) which was formally launched in December, 1994. The National Environmental Action Plan describes the environment situation existing in the country and outlines environmental strategies, measures and programmes necessary for promoting the conservation, management and sustainable utilization of our natural resources.
In pursuance of the National Environmental Action Plan and to provide a coherent environmental framework for its development policies, the Government decided to prepare this National Environmental Policy. The policy provides an overall structure against which relevant sectoral environmental policies can be reviewed to ensure that these are consistent with the principles of sustainable development. More specifically, the National Environmental Policy seeks to: -

(a) promote the efficient utilization and management of our natural resources;
(b) facilitate the rehabilitation and management of essential ecosystems and ecological processes;
(c) enhance public awareness of the importance of sound environmental management; and
(d) promote cooperation between Government, local communities, and women groups, non-governmental organizations and the private sector in the management and sustainable utilization of the natural resources and the environment.
In order to promote effective implementation of sectoral environmental policies and strategies, the National Environmental Policy, amongst other things, calls for the strengthening of institutional mechanisms, reviewing and where necessary formulating environmental legislation and by-laws. It also calls for the integrating of environmental concerns into national, regional and district planning systems, developing and implementing systems and guidelines for assessing environmental impacts of development projects and programmes, undertaking training programmes to develop capacity for environmental management, increasing environmental education and public awareness, empowering local communities in the management of natural resources through community participation and involving the private sector and non-governmental organizations in all aspects of planning and management of the natural resources and the environment.

Although the Government has already taken measures to implement some of the provisions of the National Environmental Policy, there is still more that needs to be done. It is therefore my sincere hope that this National Environmental Policy will be a useful guiding tool to all stakeholders in the country for integrating environmental considerations into Malawi's social and economic development programmes thereby promoting sustainable development.

Dr. Bakili Muluzi

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