KIGALI - A new law to tackle the use of plastic bags (Ubushashi) is now in place.
Last week, President Paul Kagame, finally signed and endorsed in the National Gazette the law which limits the manufacture, usage, importation and sale of polythene bags in Rwanda.
According to Article 3 of the law, any person who requires use of polythene bags in their business operations shall apply for a written authorisation from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA).
The application letter should indicate reasons for the request and the ways through which he or she will manage the polythene waste and the applicant shall be given a response in a period not exceeding 20 working days.
Possible penalties for any person who contravenes provisions of this Article are also stipulated in the law.
“Industries, commercial companies or any person found in possession of the prohibited polythene bags without authorisation shall be punished by an imprisonment of six to twelve months and a fine between Rwf 100,000 and Rwf 500,000 or one of the two penalties,” reads the law in part.
Any unauthorized person who sells polythene bags shall be fined between Rwf 10,000 and Rwf 300,000 and unauthorized use shall be punishable by a fine ranging from Rwf 5000 to Rwf 100,000 while in case of recidivism, the penalty shall be doubled.
Institutions in charge of controlling the use of polythene bags are the Judicial Police and other security organs, Custom officers, Rwanda Bureau of Standards, Local Authorities and REMA.
The new law came into place as Rwanda marked the 37th World Environment Day. During the occasion, a report on the state of environment was unveiled for the first time.
While presenting the report to various stakeholders and government officials, Dr Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General of Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) said that it was developed using an integrated environmental assessment and reporting approach.
“The findings will guide policy makers and other stake holders on how to improve environmental management. It will also establish the evidence base for monitoring and implementation for future policy decisions,” she said.
Vincent Karega, the state Minister for energy called for concerted efforts to promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues.
“Our country is becoming more and more vulnerable to climate change and related environmental problems. There is need to adapt towards the impact of the constraints and collectively work to change the trend,” he said.
According to the report, Rwanda’s natural and environmental resources such as water, land and air are increasingly under pressure from unsustainable use resulting in environmental degradation and decline in ecosystem goods and services.
Other natural resources highlighted in the 2-year periodic report are minerals, plants and animals on which Rwanda’s economy and the livelihoods of her people depend.
The first comprehensive state of the environment report was produced in accordance to the law that obliges the REMA to take stock and supervise environmental management.
World Environmental Day was established by the UN general assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the human environment.