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Plastic bags pollution now very alarming – govt official

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    Plastic bags pollution now very alarming – govt official

    2009-04-17 11:58:03
    By Guardian Reporter


    The problem of plastic bags, which are currently on extensive use in the country's major cities like Dar es Salaam, is multidimensional and calls for more practical measures to arrest it, it has been said.

    Speaking recently at a stakeholders' meeting organised by Lawyers' Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in Morogoro, an official from the Vice President Office, Damas Mapunda, admitted that the problem was alarming.

    He however said that the problem had social, economical and political implications, which all needed to be addressed.

    In 2006, the government banned use of plastic bags across the country, but in places like Dar es Salaam, imported 30 to 65-micron bags are the ones most readily available.

    Experts say such bags cannot be easily recycled and take time to decompose, posing a serious risk to the environment.

    According to Mapunda, plastic bags allowed for circulation in the market were of 100 microns, which can be easily recycled.

    “But the situation on the ground is not like that as plastic bags below the allowed dimension are plenty in the market and people have been using them,” he said.

    A quick survey in Dar es Salaam shows that plastic bag manufacturers have been resisting the ban, saying it would render them to close-down business and make many people lose jobs.

    More than 30,000 people are employed in the plastic bags manufacturing sector in Tanzania and some politicians are said to have shares in the respective industries.

    The VPO official however noted that, the situation was very encouraging in Mbeya and Rukwa regions, where the uses of plastic bags were very minimal.

    Mika Wanene of Mwanza Plicy Initiative (MPI), an umbrella organization of the Mwanza Environmental NGOs said that many people were unaware of the impact caused by plastic bags to the environment.

    The country’s environment watchdog has confirmed that the problem has become increasingly serious in the recent years.

    NEMC Director of Information and Communication Anna Maembe said when contacted for comment recently that most banned plastic bags entered the country through unofficial routes.

    “There is massive importation of plastic bags from neighbouring countries,” she observed.

    “We are aware of the circulation of banned bags imported from neighbouring countries. Zanzibar, Holili and Namanga border posts are among the most notorious entry points,” she explained.

    She said her council had since the ban worked closely with local plastic bag manufacturers and formed working groups “which have been regularly updating us on the goings-on in the market”.

    Banned plastic bags currently in circulation are neither from the local manufacturers nor part of old stock, affirmed the NEMC official, citing Kenya as one of the countries where the use of such bags had been banned, but were exporting the items to Tanzania.

    She said NEMC had already taken various measures towards that end in collaboration with the Tanzania Bureau of Standards and planned to have similar working relations with the Tanzania Revenue Authority.

    “Most stakeholders would want to see a total ban on plastic bags but we first need to get an alternative before taking such measures,” she said.

    Minister of State in the Vice President's Office (Environment), Dr Batilda Burian, also said the government would contemplate a total ban on plastic bags only after a viable alternative was identified or devised.

    She said her office was in cooperation with several other stakeholders in devising ways to end importation of banned plastic bags pending a total ban.

    She cited Zanzibar as one of the places where a total ban on plastic bags had succeeded and was upbeat that the plan would similarly work on the Mainland.


    SOURCE: Guardian
     
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