How Zanzibar marked World Environment Day 2018

ZANZIBAR has banned the production, importation, distribution and use of light plastic bags, which authorities say are littering streets and beaches, damage marine environment and they are a threat to the tourism industry.

While celebrating notable achievements in 12 years of the campaign, importation of plastics still remains a challenge.

Prompting the authorities to review regulations which ban the importation, distribution, sale and use of light plastic bags whose thickness is measured at 30 microns and below.

Several people--traders and users--have fallen victims with many paying fines ranging from 30,000/- depending on the quality of the plastics confiscated. No person has been imprisoned for the offence whose penalty is six months imprisonment.

The blue and black light plastics bags are almost no longer visible in shops and even on streets and dumping sites. However, empty plastic water bottles still litter streets, dumping sites, the sea and beaches.

“The campaign to control the use of plastic bags continues that is why we have re-launched review of regulations,” said Sheha Mjaja, the Director General of the Zanzibar Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA).

He said from now the regulations would be enforced and that only factories have received some exemptions: They are allowed to use plastics for packaging and also environment cleaning mainly collecting garbage.”

Acting on theme, he said ZEMA in collaboration with other stakeholders--the department of environment, students, NGOs, and ordinary citizens--conducted weeklong anti-plastics awareness campaign and cleaning the environment, targeting to remove plastics.

Some high-ranking government officials such as the Principal Secretary in the Office of the Second Vice-President Shaban Seif Moham and his deputy Abdalla Hassan Mitawi took part in the cleaning of beaches littered with plastics bottles.

Plastics, mainly empty bottles, were collected from the Kizingo beach close to the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, Kilimani in the municipality, and Paje village.

The local NGO, ‘Zanzibar Association for Cleaning Environment and Development of Youth (ZACEDY), and Zanzibar Youth Education Environment Development Support Association (ZAYEDESA), also planted mangrove trees in areas much affected by deforestation.

Officials from the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature, an international non-governmental organization, also joined beach cleaning in Paje village, where Mitawi said “Everyone, including visitors, NGOS, and development partners in Zanzibar have a role to play in safeguarding the environment.”

Aisha Ali Karume from ZAYEDA had an important message to students, tourists and people who use beaches for exercises, fishermen, and the municipal council workers: “Cleaning our environment should be our role.”

She said almost everyone directly or indirectly pollutes the environment with plastics after eating cookies or drinking water or taking soft drinks.

While collect plastics at Kizingo beach, Principal Secretary Shaban Seif Mohamed said the threat to the environment is real and the government was committed to ensuring that all people are aware and take action before it is too late.

He advised use of environmentally- friendly bags for light shopping instead of continuing the use of plastics bags secretly. “Our traditional bags are good. And avoid reckless throwing of empty plastic bags and bottles,” he said.

Officials warn that Zanzibar is in danger of becoming one of the world’s most environmentally- endangered island chains due to unchecked disposal of solid waste--mainly plastic materials and deforestation.

Buyers of metal scraps and empty plastic bottles have been helping to ‘keep’ the environment clean, for recycling in China, but the buying has stopped due to unclear reasons.

Global statistics indicate that every year, we use 17 million barrels of oil to produce plastic bottles for our water. In 2016, 480 billion bottles were sold worldwide; and plastic make up 10 percent of all of the waste we generate.

“Beat Plastic Pollution”, is the theme for World Environment Day 2018, a call to action for all people to come together to combat one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time.

Chosen by this year’s host country, India, the theme of World Environment Day 2018 invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife–and our own health.

Environmental scientists argue that while plastic has many valuable uses, “we have become over reliant on singleuse or disposable plastic with severe environmental consequences.

It is estimated, globally, about one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute!” Environmentalists warn further that every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into oceans, where it smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife.

The plastic that ends up in the oceans can circle the Earth four times in a single year, and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates.

This year’s World Environment Day provides an opportunity for each of us to embrace the many ways that we can help to combat plastic pollution around the world, and you do not have to wait until 5th June of every year to act.

Through the World Environment Day, UN Environment is asking everyone, companies and civil society groups, to take a concrete action to Beat Plastic Pollution.

Every World Environment Day has a different global host country, where the official celebrations take place. This year it is India. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states our resolve “to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources”.

In particular, Goals 14 and 15 focus on protecting under water and on land ecosystems, as well as on sustainably using marine and terrestrial resources.

According to the UN, every year the world uses 500 billion plastic bags; in the last decade, the production of plastic was more than in the whole last century; 50 percent of the plastic we use is singleuse on disposable; and we buy one billion plastic bottles every minute.

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Author: ISSA YUSSUF, Zanzibar

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