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General News of Monday, 31 March 2014

Source: standard-tribune.com

Advocate pushes for access to Environmental Information Law


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Cameroon’s environmental management law passed in 1996 grants citizens the right to environmental information but the provision is difficult to implement because the enabling decree has never been signed.

BY EUGENE N NFORNGWA

Across the country, farmers are being forced to replant because the early seasonal rains were quickly followed by unexpected long stretches of dryness, a leading climate justice advocate has said.

Augustine Njamnshi, former chairman and sitting board member of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) told lawmakers that occurrences like this showed how ordinary people were being hit by climate change.

But in the midst of that, they are not getting enough information about what is going on and how the government is responding to the problem because the current legal framework limited access to environmental information, he said.

Njamnshi is advocating for an enabling act to help citizens take advantage of an 18-year-old law granting citizens access to environmental information. Without that act, there are no rules to help public official give information or citizens to demand information.

For about six years, the Bioresources Development and Conservation Program Cameroon (BDCPC) – with the help of the World Resources Institute – has been working with the government to have this enabling act passed by the prime minister. Njamnshi is also executive secretary of BDCP-C.

At the PanAfrican Action Day on Climate Change in parliament on 25 March, Njamnshi urged lawmakers to push for the enactment of the enabling act.

“Two days ago, I called my mother and she told me she had gone back to the farm to replant groundnuts that she had already planted but the rains went away,” Njmanshi said in very personal remarks.

“That is how she is suffering from climate change. It is not about the cyclones, typhoons and floods in the UK or the USA. Our people are suffering from climate change at the very base but they do not have a voice.

“In fact, our people are dying for information about this climate change and for information in general. We come back to you to say give us laws that will facilitate this kind of information flow to the pop.”

Cameroon’s environmental management law passed in 1996 grants citizens the right to environmental information, which is critical in helping them cope with environmental problems and hold public officials to account.

But the provision is difficult to implement because a decree by the prime minister needed to elaborate the procedure of access to environmental information has never been signed.

“It is 18 years down the line and we have not had this decree,” Njamnshi told parliamentarians. “The population is getting impatient. We need, more than ever before, this access to information decree, so that people know what is happening and what the government is doing for them and what they can also do.”

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