The government on Sunday reiterated its intention to ban the use of plastic bags as part of efforts to conserve the environment. The minister for State in the Vice President's Office (Union Affairs and Environment), Mr January Makamba, told reporters that the government was determined to reverse the scourge of environmental degradation caused by plastic bags.
And so it intends to ban the importation, manufacture and use of plastic bags in the country. Only industries making plastic bags for export will be allowed, according to the minister, to continue manufacturing the bags.
This is not the first time the government says it intends to ban plastic bags. The first time in recent history was in August 2013 when the then Minister responsible for environment, Dr Theresia Huvisa, announced the intention, saying only plastic bags with more than 30 microns would be permitted.
This followed the enactment of the East African Community Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2011 at the EA Legislative Assembly at its 2012 sitting in Kampala. Unfortunately, nothing came of it and the use of plastics continued with catastrophic consequences to the environment.
On Sunday the government said the ban for all forms of plastic bags including the sachets used to package alcohol, famously known as viroba, would be progressive and would come into effect next year after broad consultations with manufacturers.
The grace period, according to Mr Makamba, is to enable investors re-invest in other activities.
While we commend the government for thinking again about banning plastic bags we urge it to actually enforce the ban to save the environment. Tanzania has been affected by the plastic bag waste more than any other country in the region with most of the waste finds its way into rivers and the sea.
Consultations with plastic bag manufacturers are a good move if the ban is to be effective.
Tz War on Tobacco too slack
Today is the World No Tobacco Day and many countries around the world will use the event to celebrate successes that they have recorded in efforts to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.
For poor countries such as Tanzania, the cost of not acting against tobacco use is staggering. A recent study, for example, shows that 32 per cent of cancer cases reported at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute and Muhimbili National Hospital were tobacco-related and cost the government $40 million (Sh80 billion) a year for treatment.
A 2014 study conducted by the University of Dar es Salaam shows that Tanzania spent $118.7 million (about Sh238bn) on treating cardiovascular diseases related to tobacco use.
These reasons alone are enough to spur action to protect the country from the daunting health crisis associated with smoking. But it is disappointing that over 13 years since the country signed an international convention on tobacco control, nothing seem to be moving to domesticate the convention.
The convention WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) provides step-by-step approach for countries to tackle the tobacco epidemic and it is about time Tanzania walked the talk on its commitment. It is sad that the country continues to embrace the tobacco industry at the obvious health expense that is not commensurate with the benefits that accrues from it.