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EALA Adjourns Debate on Polythene Materials Control Bill

Hon. Dora Byamukama contributes during yesterday's Siting
Hon. Dora Byamukama contributes during yesterday's Siting

East African Legislative Assembly; Kigali, Rwanda; 16 March 2017:

EALA has adjourned the enactment of the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill 2016 in order to allow more room for consultations. The Motion for adjournment of the Bill was moved by the Chair of Council of Ministers and Deputy Minister of EAC, United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Dr Susan Kolimba under Rule 30 (c ) of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly.

The Minister moved the Motion in order to allow for further scrutiny of various amendments, as well as the incorporation of views of the apex body of the Private Sector, the East African Business Council. In addition, the time allows for the views of the United Republic of Tanzania to be incorporated.

The Bill whose mover is Hon. Patricia Hajabakiga aims at providing a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment through the prohibition of manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials. The Bill was re-introduced afresh during the Sitting held in August 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania.

Hon. AbuBakr Ogle said while there was need to protect the environment the region must look at the bigger picture, he said while citing statistics from the global green environment movement.

“Polythene bags take a month to decompose, plywood 1-3 years, cigarette butts 10-12 years and soapwood for example take between one to three years, while plastic containers may take as many as 50-80 years to degrade,” he said.

“The business community under EABC have some good proposals on the way forward. It is only fair that we listen to them”, he said.

“The Bill as currently constituted does not fully capture the essence of the views of stakeholders. Let us give it more time,” he added.

Even as the motion for adjournment sailed through, a preceding report indicated that Partner States are indeed in support of the Bill. However, polythene manufacturers especially in the Republics of Kenya and Uganda while understanding the concerns of the Committee of Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, are taken aback by the heavy investments they have put in the sector.

Addressing the House, the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, Hon. Valerie Nyirahabineza observed there were best practices with regard to alternatives of plastic bags like banana materials used in the Republics of Burundi and Rwanda which can emulated in the entire region.

Chapter 19 of the Treaty for the EAC enjoins Partner States to co-operate in all issues of environmental and Natural resources management, while Articles 112(1) and 112(2) a) b) c) and h) urge Partner States to adopt common environment control regulations, incentives and standards. It further encourages the manufacture and use of bio-degradable pesticides, herbicides and packaging materials while adopting common environmental standards.

According to the report, Burundi is in total agreement with the Bill and is very supportive to it. Since 2000, the Government has promoted policies on environmental management and sanitation through some projects on waste management in urban areas.

The report says stakeholders in Kenya invited to the public hearing of the Committee included officials from Ministries of EAC, Labor and Trade, Environment, Parliamentarians from the Committee on Environment, Human Rights – based civil society organizations and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). “Stakeholders support the Bill and think that it can be significantly improved by addressing the issue of waste management. But they expressed the need to balance between eradicating the polythene menace and protection of investments’, the report says in part.

In Uganda, Hon. Valerie Nyirahabineza informed the House of a law banning plastics which was enacted in April 2015.

“There are continuous awareness creation campaigns and proposals to restrict the ”kaveera” (plastic carrier bag) ban of 30 microns”, she said.

Representatives of the manufacturers (Uganda Manufacturers Association - UMA) said they had been left out during consultations on the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2016. For that purpose, the Committee interacted with them in Kigali, Rwanda on Wednesday 8th March 2017. In the presentations, UMA stressed the importance of waste management through recycling as a way reducing negative impacts of plastics on environment. In the alternative, UMA recommended that polythene industries be regulated by the 3 Rs solution (reduce, re-use and recycle). Their plea to the Committee thus was to let EAC countries continue using polythene materials, then re-use, reduce and recycle them.

The Republic of Rwanda on its part is in full support of the Bill as the plastic usage ban started in 2004 after a Policy was approved by Cabinet. Four years later, the country enacted a law which is enforce.

The United Republic of Tanzania is yet to submit their submissions according to the Chair of the Committee. “A letter was sent to the United Republic of Tanzania requesting them to send their submissions”, she told the House.

The apex body of the Private Sector in the region, East African Business Council wrote to the Speaker of EALA, Rt Hon. Daniel F. Kidega requesting for further consultations and more time for the Private Sector to submit their Memorandum on the bill.

During submission, Hon. Mumbi Ngaru lamented over the frustration and pain of implementing waste management system and said there was need to rid the region of polythene materials. She however noted the ban will interfere with the national economies in terms of loss of jobs and other incentives in the private sector.

Hon. Dora Byamukama said time had come to rid the region of polythene bags.

“Sometimes I travel from Kigali to Katuna to Kabale in Uganda. When you travel to Rwanda, you are compelled to dump the plastics and polythene bags before you cross into Rwanda. When travelling towards Uganda, you witness and see the actual dump of plastics even on the roads. The issue is really clear. How much longer should we wait and what is sufficient consultation? she posed.

“A time is coming when we shall be unable to have recourse for the polythene materials. We need to take action now…let our grandchildren coming after us, not suffer from our non-action,” she said.

Hon. Maryam Ussi said the comments from the United Republic of Tanzania were expected to be dispatched. We need to wait since all Heads of State shall be entitled to assent to it.

Hon. Nancy Abisai remarked that ideally, there was need to enact the Bill. “However, we must be alive to the processes happening around us. Let us allow for the proposals to be looked at so that we have consensus on the Bill”, she added.

Others who supported the Bill were Hon. Shyrose Bhanji, Hon. Mike Sebalu, Hon. Susan Nakawuki, Hon. Mukasa Mbidde, Hon. Oda Gasinzigwa, Hon. Joseph Kiangoi, and Hon. Taslima Twaha. Hon. Chris Opoka, Hon. Martin Ngoga and Hon. Nusura Tiperu also supported the Bill.

Deputy Minister for EAC, Maganda Julius Wandera said the Bill was key to contain environmental degradation. “The Bill is popular across the region. However, he called on the House to take cognizance of the petition by EABC – which represents the business people”, he said.

Rule 30 ( c ) of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly states that a Motion for adjournment may be moved without notice.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment in Kenya released a gazette notice banning the plastic bags effective on September 1st 2016 in the country. The notice signed by Hon. Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources says in part,

“it is notified to the public that the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and natural resources has with effect from 6 months from the date of the notice and banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging defined as follows:”
a) Carrier bag – bag constructed with handles and with or without gussets;
b) Flat bag – bag constructed without handles and with or without gussets.


- ENDS -

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About the East African Legislative Assembly:

The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is the Legislative Organ of the Community and has a cardinal function to further EAC objectives, through its Legislative, Representative and Oversight mandate. It was established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.

 

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