Members of Parliament sitting on the Parliamentary committee on Natural Resources have vowed not to amend the law regulating the production and use of the polythene bags commonly known as Kaveera as demanded by some manufacturers.
The law prohibited the ban production, importation, sell and use of polythene materials below 30 microns in Uganda. However, although the ban has been in place for over ten years, its implementation has faced obstruction from Kavera manufactures and politicians.
Intense lobbying from manufacturers recently forced the government to stop NEMA from enforcing the ban and instead pushed the responsibility to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), a body that is not known for protecting the environment.
Resurrecting the ban, the committee chairperson Alex Byarugaba said there is no need to amend the law banning the use of polythene bags as urged by manufacturers.
“We are not going to change the law. The law is in place and we are going to follow it to the later. We are not prepared to change the law. We are going to insist and are insisting that NEMA comes out strongly and cracks [the whip] on the illegal importers,” Byarugaba said.
Byarugaba, also the Isingiro South MP told reporters that Uganda should take advantage of Kenya’s recent ban on the plastic substance to deal a death blow to Kaveera.
“By the way 60% of the Kaveera you see in this country comes from Kenya now that Kenya has banned it, we are likely to get some relief, if only we also put in more fire, Kaveera will be a thing of the past,” Byarugaba.
Although Polythene bags have over the years played a central role in packaging purposes at industrial and domestic levels, experts have warned that their continued use constitutes a major hazard to the environment, including blocking drainage channels, and destroying soil quality as the material takes hundreds of years to decompose.
Kumi Municipality MP Silas Aogon says (NEMA), the Environmental Police and other relevant bodies should urgently come out with an explanation in regard to the failure to implement the ban.
“As a Committee of Parliament, we would love NEMA to come out clearly to summarize the challenges that they are facing when it comes to the issue of enforcing the ban, ….what is real challenge?” Aogon explains.
Geoffrey Dhamuzungu, the Budiope East MP, pointed to possible causes of failure in the implementation of the ban by alleging that some individuals in government who are responsible for the enforcement of the ban have a conflict of interests.
Dhamuzungu alleges that some government officials have shares in the polythene manufacturing and importation companies. He did however declined to name those with shares in Buveera factories.
Dhamuzungu noted that unless President Yoweri Museveni intervenes to support NEMA in enforcing the ban, new efforts are likely to fail once again.