The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), which has been sitting in Kigali for the past two weeks, has has adjourned the enactment of the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill in order to allow more room for consultations.
The motion for adjournment of the Bill was moved by the Chair of the Council of Ministers and Deputy Minister of the EAC, Tanzania, Dr Susan Kolimba under Rule 30 (c) of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly.
The Minister moved the Motion in order to allow for further scrutiny of various amendments, as well as the incorporation of views of the apex body of the private sector, the East African Business Council. In addition, the time allows for the views of Tanzania to be incorporated.
The House also deferred adoption of the report of the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources (ATNR) on the Polythene Materials Control Bill.
The Bill, proposed by Patricia Hajabakiga, provides a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment through the prohibition of manufacturing, sale, importation and use of polythene materials. The Bill was re-introduced during the sitting in August 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania.
MP Abubakr Ogle, citing statistics from the global green environment movement, said that while there was need to protect the environment, the region must look at the bigger picture.
“Polythene bags take a month to decompose, plywood 1-3 years, cigarette butts 10-12 years and soapwood for example between 1 to 3 years, while plastic containers may take as many as 50-80 years to degrade,” he said. “The business community through the EABC has some good proposals on the way forward. It is only fair that we listen to them.”
“The Bill as currently constituted does not fully capture the essence of the views of stakeholders. Let us give it more time,” he added.
Even as the motion for adjournment was adopted, a preceding report indicated that Partner States are indeed in support of the Bill. However, polythene manufacturers especially in Kenya and Uganda are taken aback by the heavy investments required.
Representatives of the Uganda Manufacturers Association said they had been left out during consultations on the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill. For that purpose, the Committee interacted with them in Kigali, Rwanda on Wednesday 8th March 2017. In the presentations, UMA stressed the importance of waste management through recycling as a way of reducing negative impacts of plastics on environment. In the alternative, UMA recommended that polythene industries be regulated by the 3-Rs solution (reduce, re-use and recycle).
The Republic of Rwanda on its part is in full support of the Bill as the plastic usage ban started in
The EAC apex body of the private sector in the region, the East African Business Council, wrote to the EALA Speaker Daniel F. Kidega requesting for further consultations and more time for the private sector to submit their Memorandum on the bill.
During submission, MP Mumbi Ngaru lamented over the frustration and pain of implementing waste management system and said there was a need to rid the region of polythene materials. She however noted the ban will interfere with the national economies in terms of loss of jobs and other incentives in the private sector.
Dora Byamukama, too, said time had come to rid the region of polythene bags.
And the Chair of the Committee on Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, Valerie Nyirahabineza, observed there are best practices with regard to alternatives of plastic bags like banana materials used in Burundi and Rwanda which can be copied in the entire region.
Yet MP Nancy Abisai remarked that ideally, the Bill should be enacted. “However, we must be aware of the processes happening around us. Let us allow for the proposals to be looked at so that we have consensus on the Bill,” she added.