Kisumu County reels to the effect of plastic bag ban

Children pose near a heap of plastic waste in Nairobi.Plastic bag ban has made the environment cleaner.Picture:David Mbewa
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Five months after the plastic and polythene ban was effected countrywide, many Kenyans are yet to come to terms with the new environment law.

In Kisumu County, most of the residents have welcomed the ban which was effected on September 7, 2017. They lamented that the plastic bags were choking the lake and a pollution menace in the lakeside city.

Those in the fishing industry who depend on the lake for their daily income sighed with relief as the ban took effect noting that the rate at which the polythene papers and plastic materials had polluted the largest fresh water lake in the country and Africa as a whole was devastating.

They claimed that dumping of plastic papers into the lake had led to a huge reduction in fish stocks.

Some other residents welcomed the ban saying it was the best way of cleaning the lake and the city’s environment as a whole.

According to Peres Onyango, fish-monger at Dunga Beach although the ban was ‘painful’ the reality was that it would ensure that the environment, and especially that of the lake was kept clean.

Said Onyango: “The Government and National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) action affected us directly because we used these polythene papers to wrap omena and other types of fish. Now we have to find alternative ways of wrapping fish for our customers.”

However, Onyango noted that neighbouring countries like Rwanda had effected the ban on plastics over nine years ago and it has been a great success.

Audi Ogada spokesperson for the Kisumu Civil Society Organisation (KCSO said the move was positive and welcomed it saying it environmental pollution which was a menace in the town scaring away potential investors would reduce.

Ogada noted that plastics were a major menace as they blocked sewerage systems and piped water lines as well as being a threat to livestock who consume it.

“For instance, the dumpsite, situated near residential areas at Kachok have been a subject of debate, with former Governor Jack Ranguma facing criticism for failing to remove it,” explained Ogada.  He added: “The smell and air residents breathe from the dumpsite is by itself a health hazard to their lives,” Ogada lamented.

“I support this initiative because it will definitely improve our environment. We now have new County Government under Prof Anyan’g Nyong’o’,” said Ogada. “The dumpsite has now been relocated but we must go further and recycle the solid waste from Kachok.”

Noted Ogada: “With ban of plastic bags in place, and relocation of dumpsites and recycling waste solid matter we expect a cleaner environment and better supply of fish from Lake Victoria.”

Ogada challenged Nyong’o to ensure the implementation of his 10-point plan during campaigns which among other things seeks to have the dumpsite relocated and recycling of waste material carried out.

According to Edwin Ochieng, a resident of the lakeside town: “The ban ought to have come even earlier. Look at Kachok dumpsite and you will find plastic bags everywhere. The Government must be on the alert and firm to ensure that this ban is implemented to the letter.”

Meanwhile most traders at Jubilee Market, famously known as Chiro Mbero initially faced the ban with uncertainty as they did not know which products to embrace. However, within these five months they have found their way around the problem.  Some traders are slowly adapting to alternative ways of wrapping while shoppers are carrying their own shopping bags.

Traders who sell vegetables such as kale, tomatoes, onions, carrots, potatoes have not found it easy as they are forced to use khaki bags and old newspapers to wrap for their customers.  Other fruit and vegetable vendors have moved to packing their goods bio-degradable bags.

Nancy Achieng, one of the traders, who previously used polythene papers, says they were very convenient but they had no option but to use alternative materials like old newspapers.

“Things have not been easy as customers no longer do spontaneous buying if they don’t have where to put the goods,” said Achieng. She noted: “I have seen my sales go down since many customers keep forgetting to carry the fibre bags which are also being sold at a high price,” Achieng complained.

Supermarkets have fully complied with law by packing their commodities in recycled and other bio-degradable materials. However, while they previously provided packaging for free, they are now charging.

Michael Omondi, a Supervisor at Tumaini Supermarket in the central business district explained that they had to comply with the rule and consumers have also adjusted to the new reality.

“We encourage our customers to carry their own shopping kikapus (baskets), kiondos, and baskets or buy our re-usable bags,” said Omondi.

Collins Otieno, former chairman of Kisumu Hawkers Association thought the ban would increase crime rate in town since hundreds of youth who were generating their income from selling the bags have been rendered jobless.

“I did not support the ban on plastic bags as youths working for plastic bags manufacturers and those who supplied the polythene bags to shopping centres are now out of work,” said Otieno.

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