The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) boss Dr. Tom Okurut has recommended to the committee investigating land administration and processes that the ban on polythene bags be followed through saying it possess significant health implications to users.
He explained that scientific studies have linked the use of plastic made bags popularly known as ‘kaveera’ to cancer related illnesses especially if used to carry food products.
Dr. Okurut was responding to a concern raised by the Chairperson of the seven person probe committee, viagra Justice Catherine Bamugemereire regarding the backtracking by government in implementation of the ban.
Government first announced the ban on the use of polythene bags of less than 30 microns in 2009, shop but the process of implementation by NEMA in 2015 was frustrated by manufacturers and lobbyists.
But beyond personal health effects, nurse NEMA says polythene releases approximately 39,600 tonnes of waste into the environment annually which affects land productivity and drainage.
“We cannot sit and wish for a good environment. Adequate investment must be done,” Dr. Okurut said.
“Scientific reports have proved that cancers find their route through the use of plastic bags. These bags are made of chains of polymer components which upon reaction with food like fatty meat, break and the person consuming this meat is exposed to cancer,” he said.
He opposed the idea that affecting a ban on production of kaveera would restrain the manufacturing of biodegradable plastic products such as basins, cups and jerrycans whose impact on the land isn’t immediate.
“Economic arguments like how much taxes government stands to lose should not count if we care about our health. The ban should be enforced to the letter.”
Regarding NEMA’s capacity to fight encroachment on natural resources (wetlands, swamps, rivers and lakes) Okurut cited a number of challenges hampering monitoring, among them inadequate staffing and funding. He also said that the existing laws (Land Act, Environment Act and Registrations Act) are contradictory, making it difficult to deal with the issue of land ownership in protected areas.
“NEMA is chronically underfunded. Government allocates us Ush 9.6bn annualy. Whereas we retain the collections we make from fees and issuance of certificates, they are meagre.”
In relation to human resource, NEMA says its current technical staff of 39 people is incapable of effectively delivering on its mandate. The Ministry of Public Service recently approved 35 more slots in NEMA’s human resources but according to Okurut, this hasn’t been operationalized yet.
“We depend on local governments but even there, staffing is at 25%. Monitoring is a continuous process which requires personnel. At the district, the environment officer is the same person who handles fisheries and forests.”
In as much as the 1995 constitution gazetted wetlands and other natural resources as public property, government hasn’t secured lad titles for these areas. Okurut revealed that a total of 562 land titles have been found to be overlapping wetlands especially in the Greater Kampala region.
As a result of continued unregulated occupancy and development of wetlands, 242 have since lost their ecological function and declared vanquished.