Q&A – 16 February 2015

Plane seat not enough

My uncle is fat and over 190 kgs and is always inconvenienced when he boards an aircraft. He cannot afford flying business class and when he travels economy the seat size is not enough for him. Why don’t the airlines have special seats for fatter people, who are also part of our society. Is this not a form of discrimination? Also, when my uncle walks the aisles of the plane he is forced to brush his body past all those passengers sitting on aisle seats. How can you assist us?
IU, Dar

This is a sensitive topic for many years and the law does not necessarily force airlines to provide special seats for fat passengers. There is also a sensitive balancing act to do for the airlines between those who are normal weight, which is the majority, and the few who are overweight like your uncle.

Airlines have policies on fat people boarding. Some of these policies differ in degree and detail, but essentially if you don’t fit in a seat with an extension seatbelt and the armrest down, you will be charged for two seats or removed from the plane. This is a policy that many airlines have adopted.

We are not sure what airline your uncle flew but the terms of carriage always addresses this. We don’t believe it is discriminatory as if the airlines start offering special seats for fatter passengers, the cost of air travel might end up going up for the other passengers.

There is also the issue of security and comfort of passengers seated next to your uncle that need to be taken into account. If someone can hardly fit in a seat, getting that person out of that seat in an emergency is going to be difficult.
As for the aisle brushing, most airlines allow early boarding for fatter passengers. That we believe will solve this problem.

Environmental protection in Tanzania

I have read the Environmental Management Act and don’t see any specific provisions that talk about protection of the environment. Is this the main law that governs the environment in Tanzania? Can a person bring an action under this act?
YU, Morogoro

The Environmental Management Act is indeed the main law for protection of our environment. Unfortunately there are many regulations that are supposed to be made under this act that have yet to be released leaving a number of grey unregulated areas that provide lacunas for various persons.

Section 4 of this Act states that (1) Every person living in Tanzania shall have a right to clean, safe clean, safe and healthy environment. (2) The right to clean, safe and healthy environment shall include the right of access by any citizen to the various public elements or segments of the environment for recreational, educational, health, spiritual, cultural and economic purposes. 5.-(1) Every person may, where a right referred to in section 4 is threatened as a result of an act or omission which is likely to cause harm to human health or the environment, bring an action against the person whose act or omission is likely to cause harm to human health or the environment.

The Act states that the action above may be brought on the following: (a) prevent, stop or discontinue any activity or omission, which is likely to cause harm to human health or the environment; (b) compel any public officer to take measures to prevent or discontinue any act or omission, which is likely to cause harm to human health or environment; (c) require that any on-going activity or omission be subjected to an environment audit or monitoring; (d)require the person whose activity or omission is likely to cause harm to human health or the environment, to take measures to protect the environment or human health; (e) compel the persons responsible for the environmental
degradation to restore the degraded environment as far as practicable to its condition immediately prior to the damage; and (f) provide compensation for any victim of harm or omission and the cost of beneficial uses lost as a result of an activity that has caused harm to human health or the environment.

Prospecting licence holder obligations

I applied for and was granted a Prospective Licence (PL) but unfortunately I have not found a partner to develop it. Does that put me in default? Is there no special clause that allows Tanzanians to keep the PLs until I find a partner?
RJ, Mwanza

Any PL holder, notwithstanding that he is a Tanzanian or not is bound by section 36 of the Mining Act 2010 which states the following: (1) The holder of a prospecting licence shall- (a) commence prospecting operations within a period of three months, or such further period as the licensing authority may allow, from the date of the grant of the licence or such other date as is stated in the licence on commencement period; (b) give notice to the licensing authority of the discovery of any mineral deposit of potential commercial value; (c) adhere to the prospecting programme appended to the prospecting licence; and (d) expend on prospecting operations not less than the amount prescribed. (2) A person who- (a) contravenes any provision of subsection (1), shall be in default; (b) makes false statement or presentation to the licensing authority regarding the obligations of the licensee under subsection (1) commits an offence, and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than twenty million shillings.

If you are in default, your PL can be cancelled as not having found a partner is not a defence for failing to start prospecting operations.