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PSs clash in Arusha over Eala Polythene Bill

By | November 7th 2011

By Luke Anami

Two senior Government officials clashed on Friday in Arusha as they debated whether Kenya should ban use of polythene material, as is the case in other East African Community partner states.

Industrialisation Permanent Secretary Karanja Kibicho and his EAC counterpart David Nalo each presented differing views during the public hearings on the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill 2011, which is before the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in Arusha.

The mover of the Polythene Materials Control Bill (PMCB) 2011, Rwanda’s Patricia Hajabakiga argued that the Bill is about managing waste, not controlling production of polythene materials. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

The Bill, which is the brainchild of Patricia Hajabakiga, an Eala Member of Parliament from Rwanda, seeks to provide a legal framework for the preservation of a clean and healthy environment by prohibiting the manufacture, sale, importation and use of polythene materials. The Bill is at the final stage of collecting views at Eala Parliament in Arusha.

Dr Kibicho said although the Bill means well, it might lead to closure of many firms if it is passed, which might ruin the local economy. "My argument should not be construed to mean I support the use of polythene, but rather my role is to promote industrialisation and a law that will stifle industrialisation should be reviewed to ensure it does not kill what we already have," Kibicho said.

But EAC PS Nalo said the manufacturing sector has needless fear, since the Bill only seeks to regulate the use of polythene and not plastics.

"Out of the meetings I have chaired, the position of Government is that the Bill was not found to be against the EAC Treaty or Kenya’s Constitution. The Bill is not about plastics, which most of the manufacturers in Kenya are involved in, but rather the menace caused by polythene on the environment," Nalo said.

But the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has opposed the enactment of the Bill in its current form, saying it will affect more than 9,000 people in employment and affect tax remittance to the tune of Sh1.5 billion per year.

Lose investments

"Businesses in Kenya stand to lose investments worth over Sh43 billion if a Bill seeking to ban use of polythene material in the EAC is passed," Betty Maina, KAM CEO said.

Ms Maina said the Bill should be reviewed to ensure production of polythene material is not banned. Instead, Eala legislators should refocus the Bill on encouraging correct consumer behaviour since recycled plastic has many uses, including construction of roads and making of bottle tops.

"The bill does not propose economically viable alternatives to the use of polythene packaging. It is naÔve to ban a useful product on basis of pollution, rather than regulate consumer behaviour and conduct as is in the case of advanced economies such as the UK," Maina said.

But the mover of the motion, Eala’s Ms Hajabakiga argued that the Bill is about managing waste rather than production of polythene materials.

"In Rwanda, we have banned the use of plastics and the effects are clear for all to see. Kigali is today one of the cleanest cities in the region partly because of the banning of use of polythene," Hajabakiga said.

EAC partner states have upto 15th this month to finalise proposals on the Bill.

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