- Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:42
- Written by ISSA YUSSUF in PEMBA
- Hits: 888
DECLARING war on the use of plastic bags has not been easy in many countries, but Pemba Islands in Indian Ocean can be a model after its admirable success.
Pemba is now taking measures to eliminate plastic bags in a bid to cut waste and conserve environment. Unguja and Pemba form Zanzibar and authorities in the Islands declared ban of use of plastic bags in the islands in February this year.
Pemba residents appear to take the ban seriously by turning to traditional bags and other environmental friendly bags. “If we can stop using plastic bags, then it’s good for us and the environment,” said a fishmonger Mzee Kombo, who was wrapping fish in a paper bag to his customer at Chakechake market.
Kombo says almost all residents in ‘big’ towns of Chakechake, Mkoani, and Wete in Pemba are aware of the negative impact of plastic bags and have been cautious in accepting any plastic bag. Under the ‘environmental management for sustainable development Act No. 2 of 1996 (amended),’ businesses are prohibited from manufacturing, distributing, selling or using all kinds of plastic bags.
Head of department of environment, Pemba Islands Mr Mwalimu Khamis Mwalimu said that ban on use of plastic were imposed on different dates in the past decade with little achievements, “but now administrative regulation and followthrough is carefully monitored.” “Our success is attributed to commitment and collaboration.
The anti- plastic bags task force includes town council authorities, and police officers, and community leaders,” Mwinyi said adding that community-policing was also helping to combat the use of plastic bags. Mwinyi said that awareness campaign was going on well through media, different gathering, and use of signboard located in strategic points such as busy streets, ports, and market.
“We have left no stone unturned in Pemba in our efforts to restrict use of plastic bags in Pemba, and we are heading to declare success,” Mwinyi said. However, he said used plastic bottles, and plastic used to wrap clothes and foodstuffs will remain a problem.
He said that his office was now encouraging people to return to traditional bags to abandon the use of plastic bags, “fortunately many people in Pemba have shifted to environmental friendly bags.” A quick survey by the daily news in many parts of the busy town of Chakechake shows that use of plastic bags has disappeared in the Pemba busiest town.
The story is different from the main town of Zanzibar where authorities are still fighting to control the bags. The Zanzibar Director of environment Mr Sheha Mjaja says more efforts are still needed to control dishonest members of the business community continuing to import and sale plastic bags. “But another big challenge in Zanzibar town is the influx of people from Dar es Salaam carrying plastic bags.
We try to control the entry by confiscating the bags, but it is still a challenge,” Mjaja says. Environmentalists say that people or customers in various places around the globe including Zanzibar started to be given flimsy plastic bags when they buy goods in the past two decades.
The cheap bags were given in retail shops and markets, eliminating the need for shoppers to bring their own bags! “While plastic bags provide convenience to consumers, this has caused a serious environmental concern including pollution because of excessive usage, inappropriate waste disposal, and lack of recycling and other reasons,” Mjaja said.
Zanzibar re-launched a nationwide campaign against importation and use of plastics bags in the islands, early this year involving police officers. The on going crackdown has led to arrest of hundreds of people including importers and vendors who have either paid fine or served in jail.
Similar crackdown on plastics bags was implemented in 2006 recording great achievement in two years with noticeable reduction of plastics in the islands, before it emerged again in 2008. The minister of state (environment) Ms Fatma Abdulhabib Fereji has also blamed tourists’ hotels close to the sea for pollution mainly mismanagement of liquid and solid wastes including plastic bags poses a great threat to Zanzibar environment.
“We still do not have reliable national data on solid and liquid wastes, but about 260 tons of solid wastes are produced daily in Zanzibar municipality yet only 40 per cent of wastes are collected and disposed, while 2,200 cubic litres of liquid waste is disposed to the sea untreated,” she said.
Internationally, legislation to discourage plastic bag use has been going on such as South Africa, Rwanda, Ireland and Taiwan, where authorities either tax shoppers who use them or impose fees on companies that distribute them.
Haiti has been, probably the latest country to ban importation and use of plastic bags. In European Union (EU) some countries have been taking measures in reducing use of plastic bags, including shying away from giving away plastic bags. EU countries have also imposed stiff fees to pay for the mess created by all the plastic trash.
But in the United States, the plastics industry has launched a concerted campaign to derail and defeat anti-bag measures nationwide. The effort includes well-placed political donations, and intensive lobbying at both the state and national levels. It is estimated that the world consumes one million plastic shopping bags every minute - and the industry is fighting hard to keep it that way.