It remains unclear whether the East African Community Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2016 will ever be concluded as debate on it was on Wednesday adjourned by the regional Assembly now sitting in Kigali.
Following a motion moved by Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Dr Susan Kolimba, under the House’s rules of procedure, a key report on the Bill presented by the committee on agriculture, tourism and natural resources could also not be adopted.
Dr Kolimba’s motion for adjournment –which may be moved without notice – under rule 30 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly was partly down to the fact that business leaders have requested for further consultations, while the Tanzanian government is yet to submit its views on the Bill.
But MP Valerie Nyirahabineza (Rwanda), chair of the committee on agriculture, tourism and natural resources, remains optimistic that after they include more views from stakeholders during the next sitting in Arusha, in May, the Bill will be passed “without doubt.”
“This is a Bill everyone wants, including members of the business community who have insisted on having further consultations. In May, we shall make amendments but ultimately the Bill will pass,” Nyirahabineza told The New Times after the day’s session.
Earlier, during the session, Nyirahabineza presented a report in support of the Bill and reminded the Assembly that EAC Partner States are signatories to various international agreements on environment.
“It should be noted that Polythene materials like plastic bags are a menace to the environment and people’s health and, therefore, their use need to be controlled. Polythene waste pollution has worsened these last few years due to the fact that people prefer plastic bags as packaging materials for shopping and other uses,” Nyirahabineza said.
The lawmaker explained that this has led to mounting quantities of plastic in household waste and, since they are not degradable, have only contributed to the environment pollution, with the urban areas being the most affected.
“The situation is aggravated by the inability to manage waste, and the recycling of polythene materials which is more expensive than producing new ones. The problem has not been given due attention.”
The Bill was re-introduced for the second time during the August 2016 sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, by MP Patricia Hajabakiga (Rwanda) after it was not approved at the Heads of State summit in 2013.
MP Dora Byamukama (Uganda) was particularly clear that she does not agree with the submission for more consultations as made by the business community.
Byamukama added: “What do they mean by insufficient consultations? This is not a new Bill. What are we defending when there is ample evidence that use of polythene material is harmful to our health? It takes 400 years for polythene to degrade. Our future generations will suffer for our inaction.”
Lawmakers say that sisal, cotton and water hyacinth are some of the raw materials that can be processed into alternative packaging materials. The said EAC businesses should instead help implement such options.
MP Susan Nakawuki (Uganda) reminded the House on Tuesday, that Kenya’s Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu announced a ban on use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags.
A Kenyan a gazette notice dated February 28 says the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources has with effect from six months “from the date of this notice” banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.
Previous efforts to abolish the use of plastic bags in Kenya failed.
Nakawuki told the Assembly that over the past weekend, she toured Kigali neighbourhoods and in some rural areas and could not compare what she observed to the situation in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala and other EAC cities especially when it rains.
“The drainage system is clogged by polythene in Nairobi and other places. This is a catch-22 situation but we must make a decision. It is either we are choosing the lives of East Africans or money,” she said.
Rwanda banned polythene bags in 2008.