ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION

Despite ban, forests choking on plastics

In Summary
  • One wonders whether the ban took effect in reality or just on paper
  • The implementation process is simply weak and almost non-existent
Plastic Bottles on a beach.
POLLUTANTS: Plastic Bottles on a beach.
Image: FILE

The year 2017 was the start of a journey that has seen Kenya receive many accolades as one of the few countries with the toughest measures on plastic bags globally.

First came the ban on importation and manufacture of plastic bags, an act that shook many, received criticism, protests, and lawsuits from various stakeholders.

The ban was a significant step in addressing the raging menace choking the environment. The measure was introduced to curb the entry of polyethylene bags into the market; it was collective and stringent: fines, penalties, and law enforcers swung into action.

In 2019, Kenya’s President gave a directive banning single-use plastics in protected areas such as forests, beaches, parks, and conservancies. The directive was to take effect on June 5, 2020.

The directive was and still is vital in ensuring protected areas remain clean and safe for biological diversity and prosperity.

More than six months since the ban took effect, there is recognisable evidence of single-use plastics in protected areas. It is as if nothing happened. One wonders if the ban is active.

Apart from a few places, such as Karura Forest, where visitors on foot are thoroughly searched before entry, most other areas have not taken this regulation seriously.

Ngong Forest is a classic example with near-zero restrictions on what needs to go in and what not; from allowing locals to sell water in plastic bottles to letting people in with single-use plastic water bottles. The forest will soon be a dumpsite.

The ocean is choking from single-use plastics. Their presence can be seen floating mainly on the shores. Lakes suffer the same ordeal.

Forests have not been spared. Ngong Forest, for instance, which receives many visitors from within and outside its locality, is heavily loaded with plastics. Blame it on weak implementation of the ban

Ngong Forest is a classic example with near-zero restrictions on what needs to go in and what not; from allowing locals to sell water in plastic bottles to letting people in with single-use plastic water bottles. The forest will soon be a dumpsite.

One wonders whether the ban took effect in reality or just on paper. The implementation process is simply weak and almost non-existent.

In as much as the ban is crucial in curbing entry of single-use plastics in important areas, the selective application in a country with poor waste management strategies is hopeless.

The ban’s success will be realised once the government introduces stern warnings, fines, and penalties to all persons going into all protected areas without favour or discrimination.

Empowering citizens on the significance of the ban and the importance of the protected areas for social, environmental and economic productivity is also crucial.

Poor policy execution, lack of awareness and negligence on conservation matters provide an avenue for irresponsible waste disposal, usage, and smuggling of banned or restricted items into endangered areas.

The existence of a policy or a regulation while the manufacture and importation of banned items are active hinders the attainment of the desired goal.

Therefore, addressing the problem from the source is essential. Compelling manufacturers of single-use plastics to redefine the products and focus on reusability and biodegradability will help solve the current pressing issue.

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Plastic Bottles on a beach.
POLLUTANTS: Plastic Bottles on a beach.
Image: FILE