The state minister for Environment, Beatrice Anywar has announced the resurrection of the ban for polythene bag (kaveera) with immediate effect.
While addressing the media at the ministry offices in Luzira last month, Anywar said that the Finance Act 2009, under which polythene use was banned in the country, had to be effected this time round.
Anywar's proclamation comes ten years since the aforementioned Finance Bill was passed. And even then, the ban on kaveera did not stand the test of time, which raises questions on whether Anywar's directive this time will hold and it is not mere posturing.
Anywar said that one of the major reasons she was appointed into the office was to make sure the ban on kaveera takes effect. And considering the kind of effect the kaveera is having on the environment, there can be no more dilly-dallying. A kaveera takes not less than 400 years to decompose once it gets into the soil stifling crop production.
Yet with all her sounding tough, Anywar cannot claim she is unaware of the external forces that failed the ban on kaveera originally. A number of kaveera manufacturers said back then that lots of jobs would be lost.
While Anywar dismissed that excuse, sighting that such factories employ very few people since they were highly mechanized but the owners of the machines noted then that stopping the manufacturing of kaveera would bring them big losses on investment.
Anywar said that the initial ban on kaveera was done over a decade ago, so whoever had a factory making them, has had enough time to stop. It is for that reason, she is not compromising this time.
In fact, she instructed all the environmental institutions like the National Environment Management Authority (Nema), National Forestry Authority (NFA), non-governmental organizations primed on environment matters, Uganda Police and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), to quickly spring into action and see to it that her directive is followed.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) country director David Duli told the media, that they had the minister's back in as far as her pronouncement is concerned.
"The danger on our environment, because of the kaveera is really grave. Every day in Kampala, 600 tons of plastics are used, yet only 6 per cent of them are recycled. This means the rest are disposed off into the environment."
Dilu added, that even when the kaveera is burnt, its emissions are harmful to human life, as it causes respiratory ailments, malfunctioning of the body system and also a range of cancers. Last month, the WWF held a march around the city to campaign against the kaveera and therefore their efforts were not in vain, following Anywar's directive.
WWF's Fundraising partnerships and communications manager Rita Kyategeka reiterated how Uganda has lagged behind on the kaveera ban.
Yet, countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and DR Congo have effected the ban already for years now. In light of the much-needed execution of the minister's directive to ban kaveera, Nema spokesperson Naume Karuhaho acknowledged receipt of Anywar's pronouncement on the matter.
But she said, "We have to go back and seek the cabinet memos on the subject. One of the biggest contests has been about the microns of kaveera that has been banned before the ban can be effected."
Initially, the pronouncement was that any kaveera whose microns were below 30, was unacceptable. Ordinarily, that would include the kind of thin and light membrane polythene (black and colourless type) in which people normally carry things like they buy in shops or along the streets from vendors.
While Karuhaho could not commit on how long this process will take, let alone the exact banned kaveera, there will have to be civic education through mass media, she noted. She added that there will also have to be a discussion on rules of engagement regarding procedure of effecting the ban.