The Ministry of Water and Environment has asked parliament to revisit the debate on the need to criminalize the importation, local manufacture and use of plastic carrier bags in the country.
The ban on the use of polythene material below 30 microns was first announced in 2019 as one of the measures to mitigate its effects on the environment. Such effects include clogging of water channels, impeding water filtration and percolation into the soil, production of dangerous chemical products when used to wrap or cover food and the release of cancerous fumes in the air when burnt.
But Sam Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment said the ban has become complicated for the Ministry to implement despite the existing legal frameworks such as the National Environment Bill, 2017, thus requiring renewed debate in the House. He says that the government is mooting a new proposal for a total ban on polythene bags and have them replaced with other environment-friendly materials.
The minister’s call followed concerns by Terego District Woman Representative Rose Obiga that areas around the refugee hosting districts are worryingly littered with polythene material, arguing that the situation spells environmental ruins for the country if it is not immediately reversed.
Fox Odoi, the West Budama East North MP equally observed that polythene bags are endangering human, livestock and aquatic life and asked parliament to decisively take on the matter in the wake of floods that devastated parts of Eastern Uganda claiming close to 30 lives in Bugisu region.
Cheptoris blames flooding on human activities like tampering with the environment through construction in wetlands. He says that many developers have constructed buildings in waterways and put concrete in swamps causing a change in the environment and leading to floods and disasters.
The National Environment Act, 2019 mandates the National Environment Management Authority– NEMA to monitor, regulate, supervise and coordinate all activities relating to the environment while the Uganda National Bureau of Standards is mandated to enforce product standards in the protection of public health and safety.
NEMA has over the years undertaken inspections and inventory of 47 factories in Kampala, Jinja, Wakiso and Mukono Districts that are manufacturing plastic carrier bags. Although 21 of the factories were suspended from production after they were found to be non-compliant, the production and use of the polythene continue unregulated.
The National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has also raised a red flag rebuking the government for interfering with the legitimate functions of NEMA and against the wish of the majority of Ugandans to ban the disastrous polyethene material.
NAPE’s Executive Director, Frank Muramuzi urged the government to heed the environmentalists’ recommendations to ban the material without heeding the intimidation by the business community and cease interfering with the technical work and mandate of NEMA.
The environmentalists also rallied the business community to work towards putting in place industries that are environmentally friendly, and urged the public to desist from buying and using the Kaveras or else the country risks more environmental degradation.