An environmental rights group Movement for Environmental Action in Malawi ( MEA) says it is not amused with government’s slow pace in enforcing the ban of thin plastics nearly a year after the Supreme Court overturned a High Court decision to stop the ban in favour of the plastics manufacturers.
Executive member of the group who is also Head of Programmes at Lilongwe Wildlife Trust Dorothy Tembo Nhlema was speaking in Lilongwe when the grouping engaged in a plastic trash clean up exercise along Lingadzi river banks within the Lilongwe Wildlife Center.
The plastic trash has not only dented the trails, taking away the natural beauty one expects in such an environment but also puts at risk the wild animals and aquatic species. In addition to the plastics, the participating members picked diapers, glass and plastic bottles among other solid waste some which still lies hanging on the trees courtesy of the swelling waters which usually transfers all the waste from the upland before it gets stuck in such places.
“I can confidently say that we have not done a lot in taking away the banned plastics from the market. If the government was serious with the ban all these illegal plastics we see today should have disappeared, unfortunately, that's not the case, you and I see them daily and it doesn't reflect we have a ban at all. As MEA, we will be writing the Ministry soon demanding some answers and we will take it up from there," she said. Tembo Nhlema said the clean-up exercise is not a sustainable solution considering that waste management remains a big issue and chances are that after the heavy rains, the river will swell again and bring the trash which emerge as soon as the water recedes.
“We have so much work to do if we are to clean up everything along the river as you see the trash is just too much. Just from a small section, I was able to fill the trash bag in under 10 minutes. We need more hands, we are calling on people to come and assist.” said Nhlema. She added: “In fact, we need to advocate for the proper way of managing waste because if we don't, we will find ourselves here doing the same thing again and again which is not right. Every Malawian must take the responsibility of the waste they generate and begin to adjust their lifestyles since we have no other option other than doing the right thing”
Moving forward Nhlema the group and other interested partners plan to engage the public, the media, faith community, vendors, politicians as one way of ensuring that no one is left behind in taking care of the environment.
Another member of the group Twapa Ghambi working in the Ministry of Education Science and Technology expressed great concern over the manner in which the country is managing solid waste and called on Malawians to subscribe to the aspirations of the movement which advocates for climate justice and cleaner earth among others.
While commending the group for the cleanup exercise, Director of Environmental Affairs Taonga Mbale Luka said the government remains committed to banning all thin plastics in the country citing examples where companies have been closed and illegal plastics confiscated. Luka however, admitted Covid19 restrictions have affected enforcement activities considering they need to comply with the set restrictions to protect their officers and help contain the spread of the virus.
She said: “With the Covid-19 situation what we are doing now is to step up awareness on the dangers of plastics, what the law says including penalties involved and the available alternatives. The process is underway to produce various communication products to be used during the next massive awareness campaign, so the country shouldn't lose hope, we are very serious and we are not going back again.”
Implementation of the ban for production, importation, distribution and use of thin plastics of less than 60 microns started in 2015 but manufactures have been resistant by frustrating the process through the courts.