In 2002, Greenwatch Uganda, a non-governmental organisation, filed a court case against government in regard to the use of plastic bags. After hearing the case, presiding Judge Eldad Mwangusya ruled that plastic bags are a danger to the citizens of Uganda and urged government to pass a law against them. Mwangusya declared that the manufacture, distribution, use, sale, disposal of plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic food wrappers, and all other forms of plastic, commonly referred to as kaveera, violates the rights of citizens of Uganda to a clean and healthy environment.
In June 2007, government banned the importation, use and distribution of polythene bags of less than 30 microns. To reiterate the declaration, in the 20092010 Budget, government announced a total ban on all polythene bags as an environmental protection measure. These and many other efforts have characterised the winding fight to rid Uganda of polythene bags.
Finally, on April 15, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) effected the long-overdue ban and confiscated packs of polythene bags from various supermarkets in Kampala.
The implementation of the ban is a good move which, if sustained, will reduce environmental degradation. Poor disposal of polythene bags leads to blockage of drainage systems and degrades the soil.
It is, therefore, unfortunate that some traders are against the ban. Representatives from Uganda Manufacturers’ Association and Kampala City Traders Association approached Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda expressing concern about the ban, which prompted the premier to call for postponement of the ban.
The traders argue that alternative packaging such as paper bags are more costly. This is not a valid reason to oppose a progressive policy. Given the youth unemployment rate in Uganda, which stands at a worrying 83 per cent, this can be an opportunity to empower the youth to make paper bags for sale.
This creates a win-win situation. The polythene bags go, traders get affordable alternative packaging and the youth get employment opportunities. Kaveera manufacturers can change their line of business to paper manufacturing instead of crying foul. Individuals should also consider using locally-made shopping bags that are not only affordable but also durable. Besides, we would be supporting our local crafts industry, especially the women groups who make baskets.
Nema’s effort to implement the kaveera ban is a positive step and should be fully supported. We should comply rather than wait for Nema law enforcers to confiscate polythene bags from shopping centres. We cannot continue destroying the environment when we can embrace better alternatives.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor