Single-use plastics ban in protected areas
The year 2017 was a 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 like forests, beaches, parks, and conservancies. The directive was to take effect on 5th June 2020.
The presidential directive was and still is vital in ensuring the protected areas remain clean and safe for biological diversity and prosperity.
Six months since the ban took effect
Over six months since the ban took effect, there is recognizable 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 the Karura Forest, where visitors on foot are thoroughly searched before entry into the forest, most other areas have not taken this regulation seriously.
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. A place like Ngong forest that 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 almost zero restrictions on what needs to go in and what not. From allowing locals to sell waters 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 realized once the government introduces stern warnings, fines, and penalties to all persons going into all protected areas without favours or discrimination.
Empowering the 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
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 areas of endangered areas.
Nonetheless, the existence of a policy or a regulation while the manufacture and importation of the same 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.
This article has been published in the Star Newspaper under the Title Despite ban, forests choking on plastics