Environment as a pillar of economic development

Workers at Nduba dumping site in Gasabo District offload Garbage. File.

The ‘World Environment Day’ was celebrated Tuesday with a clarion call to beat the plastic pollution. The environment day is one of the most important days on the United Nations calendar for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

This year’s UN call simply paints an overall picture of the overwhelming global concern that plastic bag use has caused and what is being done in response.


Recently, several cities globally began banning the use of plastic bags while some have enforced restricted laws against the use of plastic bags. Rwanda banned these over ten years back.


The latest is Kenya which has also had to kick out plastic despite the agitations from the producers and affiliated businesspersons from the ‘plastic’ industry.


But the trend here toward banning plastic does not come from new findings regarding the extent and harm of plastic in our environment. Since plastic is not biodegradable, it ends up either in landfills or as litter on the landscape and in waterways and the ocean, plastic also take hundreds of years to decompose and releases toxins into the soil.

Despite the convenience users may derive from plastic bags for instance, they come at a very high cost to the environment and negatively affects human health. As experts say, plastic bags are usually lightweight and as such, they can travel very long distances by either water or wind.

Wind blows these plastic bags and trashes a whole area. This litter gets caught up in between trees, fences and floats in water bodies thus moving to the world’s oceans.

Consequently, plastics bring a series of environmental problems such as air pollution; water pollution, soil pollution and so greatly impact negatively on our ecosystem, of which we all depend on for our existence and those of other living organisms.

Therefore, ensuring the soundness and protection of the environment around us constitutes one of the most fundamental duties for mankind.

Environmental protection does not only protect us from its problems such as ecosystem disturbance, climate change, water and air pollution, and rising sea but also provide room for economic development. Coordinated and harmonized economic development in the context of environmental protection ensures conditions for sustainable development.

On the other hand, economic development provides a solid material foundation for environmental protection efforts. In simple terms, economic and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked in several ways.

Producing goods and services requires, to a greater degree, the use of natural resources – and thus comes attached with an environmental cost. Initiatives such as green growth help to achieve a harmony between economic growth and environmental sustainability, and this is what the world needs to obtain long-term and well-rounded human development.

Green growth emphasizes that strategic environmental policies can not only foster environmental sustainability at a low cost, but also have the potential to sustain long-term economic growth. In other words, strategic climate policies should not be framed as a choice between the environment and economic development, but rather as a choice between effective measures to achieve balance between the two dimensions.

However, the recent history of economic growth has largely been achieved at the expense of the environment. This brings the question of how the world can achieve well-rounded human development in the future without degrading our environment.

Every development or investment decision made around the world both depends on and has an impact on nature somewhere. This explains why Africa suffers, probably the most, from consequences of global warming when they are the least emitters of the industrial effluent.

This calls for a concerted and continuous global effort preparing plans and programs for protecting the environment, controlling pollution and nature conservation, and managing, following-up, implementing and evaluating the climatic affairs for better consequences. 

This means incorporating the environment into the economic system and development policies.

Precisely, the need for balances and trade-offs requires that the environment will not be protected only where the economic costs are not perceived to be too high. By this, environment protection will bring the fruits of development that the public is able to enjoy.

A clear evidence is Rwanda, which now has global accolade for her initiatives on environment protection; the country banned plastics a decade ago, and its clean environment is today’s one of the Kigali City’s ‘business cards’.

The writer is a communications specialist and a part-time lecturer at both the Senior Command and Staff College and the Consultative Forum for Political Parties.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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