NEMA investigates plastic bags smuggling ring

The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) has vowed to crackdown on a plastic bags smuggling racket in Kwale County.

This follows reports that some unscrupulous traders bring in the bags through the Kenya-Tanzania border despite a government ban on the harmful materials.

The County Environment Officer, Mrs. Cecilia Nyambu confirmed the reports, saying that thorough investigations will be conducted with a view to bringing the culprits to book.

Mrs. Nyambu admitted that the smuggling was frustrating the fight against plastic bags in the region warning that the authority would stop at nothing to curb the vice.

It is true some traders are still illegally using the bags but we are yet to establish the source though we have information that they are smuggled across the border, said Mrs. Nyambu.

She asked border officials to also support the enforcement of the ban by being more vigilant to ensure no illegal bags find their way into the county.

The official however, said a survey by the authority showed that the plastic bags ban was 80 per cent successful in the county, noting that only a negligible number of traders were non-compliant.

She said vegetable vendors were the major culprits, saying they were still being sensitized and warned to stop using the outlawed bags.

We will take stern action on those still discreetly using the bags even as we give warnings particularly to vendors who are struggling to make a living out of their small businesses, she added.

So far, no arrests have been made since the ban took effect in August last year due to what she explained to be logistical challenges.

The inspectorate unit has now been budgeted for, hence more action, including intensified surveillance and arrests will soon follow since police officers accompanying our inspectors will be facilitated unlike before, she said.

Mrs. Nyambu said the survey showed the ban was taking effect in the county as evidenced by a reduction in marine plastic waste and sea pollution.

We inspected Vanga, Jimbo, Shimoni and Diani beaches and found a major drop in the accumulation of plastics which was a major threat to marine life and this is an indication the ban is working, she said.

According to the officer, tourists, beach users, and members of Beach Management Units, including fishermen were all appreciative of the positive impact the ban has had in the area.

She urged locals to continue embracing the use of alternative and biodegradable bags to avert the harmful effects of plastic materials on health and the environment.

Source: Kenya News Agency