Sunday, September 20, 2020

Botswana caught in politics of radioactive waste disposal

The protracted resistance by Pilikwe residents against the selection of their village as a site for a radioactive waste storage facility has plunged Botswana into politics of radioactive waste disposal.

Paradoxically, as the need for action becomes more acute, the conflict generated by the politicization of the site selection process has delayed progress on the establishment of a permanent nuclear waste storage facility.

Pilikwe residents have set up a task force to stop the facility arguing that the radiation department is flouting international practice on site selection procedures for radioactive storage facility. The committee maintains that government and the Ngwato Land Board are trying to railroad the project through Pilikwe by riding roughshod over the community’s efforts for effective consultation.

The committee has written numerous letters to the Ngwato Land Board, the Office of the President, the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Radiation protection Board, but none have been answered. In their latest letter to Ngwato Land Board, dated April 20th 2012, the committee says it notes “with regret” that their queries have not been addressed.

“We wish to restate our request to meet with your Land Board to afford us an opportunity to present our case before any decision is taken on the plot allocation by the Department of Radiation Protection.”

The letter follows an unacknowledged letter to The Office of the President in which the task force complained that, “we have now come to the conclusion that despite all our efforts, as we have outlined in the attached minutes, to have the community’s concerns addressed by the project sponsor being the Department of Radiation Protection DRP, the department has communicated their total disagreement with the community’s objection. The same position has been adopted by the office of the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology.

According to the letter, the community’s objection is that its expectation “is that when dealing with matters relating to allocation of land for such a sensitive project as radioactive facility, the decision making process must be subjected to full and unfettered public scrutiny. It is only natural that as the proposed “host” community, we should find the process to be participatory, inclusive, all encompassing, thorough and generally above reproach. We are confident that this is the minimum requirement or expectation for radiation waste disposal projects of this nature, internationally”.

The task force says in seeking land for the facility, DRP did not conduct a proper, well documented feasibility study to evaluate the potential sites.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

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