Last year the World Bank warned that Malawi is facing “an environmental cycle of decline and degradation”. A combination of complex and interrelated factors – including population growth, climate change, pollution, land use change and uncontrolled and illegal use of natural resources – are putting the nation on an “unsustainable development trajectory”.
But the country now faces a powerful opportunity to reverse this trajectory and change the course of environmental protection. In 2017 Parliament passed a new Environmental Management Act which – if implemented effectively – has the potential to be “one of the most powerful legal instruments for environmental management introduced so far in Africa”.
At its heart is the creation of a new regulator, the Malawi Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA). This new body has been given far-reaching powers and duties, working with and through other lead agencies, districts and councils. Preparations for MEPA’s inception have formally commenced, with the appointment of Board members and the Director General.
At the request of the Government of Malawi’s Environmental Affairs Department, Lilongwe Wildlife Trust carried out a scoping study to outline the actions needed for the effective establishment and operationalisation of MEPA. The study – led by environmental expert, Dr. John Seager – makes a series of recommendations on how significant risks and challenges could be overcome and sets out the steps to be taken to set MEPA up.
Key issues addressed by the study included:
- Adopting a risk-based approach to prioritise the most urgent environmental risks
- Considering a range of economic instruments to create income streams to fund MEPA’s operations
- Strengthening enforcement
- Promoting public awareness and engagement
- Working with partners
MEPA holds the mandate to become the strong and credible environmental regulator that the country desperately needs. If established and implemented effectively, this collaborative and progressive body has the potential to not only reverse the cycle of environmental decline in Malawi but also to become a model for the region.
Realising this potential will require support from donors, local and international partners and regulatory professionals in order to leverage financial and technical support and secure high-level political will and public sentiment. Partners who are interested in learning more about this opportunity can request to see a copy of the report by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.