Five years since Parliament passed a law restricting the production of polythene materials below 30 microns, have demanded that the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) begins to crackdown on the violators of the law.
While appearing before the Parliamentary committee on Natural Resources this week to update members on the implementation of the 2009 ban, the minister for water and environmentEphraim Kamuntu said they had faced challenges especially from traders.
Kamuntu however added that the implementation of the law was being frustrated by politicians, businessmen and members of the general public.
The NEMA boss Tom Okurut however added that they had reached an understanding with Supermarkets in Kampala to stop using the banned polythene bags and resort to use biodegradable packing materials for customers.
Kaveera, as the polythene materials is widely regarded as a major environmental hazard because it restricts water and air circulation in the soil by virtue of the long time it takes to break down into soil.
The heavy dumping of polythene bags in drainage channels in Kampala a few years ago caused blocking of drainage channels which eventually resulted into massive floods that killed people and loss of property.
Parliament passed the Finance Act 2009 to give effect to the total ban on the importation and production of all polythene materials of less than 30 Microns, as announced by the then Finance Minister Syda Bbumba in the 2009 budget.
Concerned lawmakers have told the Minister for Water and Environment Ephraim Kamuntu and NEMA to implement the ban without fear of the political and economic backlash that the ban may cause.
Ephraim Kamuntu told the Parliamentary committee that implementation of this ban has always been hampered by economic concerns.
About two years ago, the then minister for environment Maria Mutagamba launched a campaign to crackdown on polythene bags. She faced immense opposition from manufacturers who said they needed time to recoup their investments.
Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) also pleaded with government to coordinate the ban on a regional level.
Kamuntu further pointed out that elective politics also obstructs the enforcement of the ban of the dangerous polythene materials especially when the public gets politically charged ahead of general elections.
The minister admitted to weaknesses in his docket and relevant departments to implementing the ban. He still noted that the general public is politically opposed to its enforcement.
“In a period when you are going for elections, the guys affected are your voters, are our voters, ” Kamuntu said.
The minister’s arguments were backed by the deputy director of the National Environmental Management Authority Dr Godfrey Sawula which angered the lawmakers.
The lawmakers said that the ban was approved by Parliament of Uganda which is made up of politicians, so the reason of grassroots politics should not be given.
An impassioned Kyankwanzi District Woman MP Ann Maria Nankabirwa said that despite the life threatening and environmental effects of the polythene materials, there is simply no political will from the authorities to enforce the ban passed by Parliament back in 2009.
“May be NEMA cannot come up to tell us where they get the problem but for me, I see the problem as lack of political will.”
Fort Portal municipality MP Alex Ruhunda attacked the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) for not executing its duties as expected, even when it is empowered by the law.
Ruhunda challenged NEMA to emulate KCCA and impound all the banned polythene on the market because the material exposes lives of Ugandans to danger.
“Can you imagine from the 7th parliament then the 8th, the 9th of course we are at the border crossing the 10th …., I do not know, are these people of NEMA scientists?. Do they really love their job? because for me if I was working in NEMA I would have resigned in case someone was failing me, a seemingly annoyed Ruhanda said.