By Andreas Thomas
Windhoek – Namibia on Tuesday joined the global community to observe the World Environment Day with a call for regulatory measures to curb the use of plastic bags in the southern African country.
Plastic, especially the plastic carrier bags, has become a staple feature of modern society since the 1960s due to its convenience and cost-effectiveness for transporting and storing goods.
However, it has since become a hazard, posing threat to human and environmental health.
Therefore, this year event was marked under the theme, ‘‘Beat Plastic Pollution; If you can’t reuse it, refuse it’’ that encourages the global community to take action to reduce plastic consumption.
Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta said in his World Environment Day statement that the theme of this year’s event could not be timelier when considering the current context in Namibia.
“Plastic bags are usually lightweight and as such, they can travel very long distances by wind even if they are disposed of at waste disposal sites. The bags get caught up in trees, bushes and fences and often float in water bodies,” he said.
“This prevalence of plastic in our oceans creates concerns about the safety of eating fish for example.
Fish is a food source we generally consider to be healthy and safe but if it is contaminated with plastic, it can cause all sorts of risks to humans from cancer to strokes, hormonal imbalances and heart attacks.
The ingestion of plastic by livestock and wildlife will result in similar risks for these animals as well as to the humans that consume them”.
Minister Shifeta said Namibia seeks to emulate over 15 African countries that have already introduced measures to “either ban or tax the use of plastic carrier bags and we have followed with close interest the experiences and impacts these measures have had in the different countries.These measures have had varying levels of success. It is our intention to learn from these lessons and introduce a number of measures to reduce the use of plastic bags that will work in the Namibian context”.
Since the beginning of this year, the Namibian Government has taken steps to transforming waste management and promoting civic pride and anti-littering among the citizens.
In February 2018, Minister Shifeta launched the launched the National Solid Waste Management Strategy, with aims to proper Namibia to become the leading country in Africa in terms of standards of solid waste management by 2028.
“I am pleased to inform you that implementation of this Strategy is already in full swing,” he said. And President Hage Geingob led a nationwide clean-up campaign on May 25 to raise public awareness on community cleanliness, environmental protection and effective use of resources.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Namibia, Rachel Odede has commended this effort government for demonstrating leadership regarding the awareness and response to pollution and climate change.
“The Namibian Government is committed to solving the issue at hand through policies and frameworks such as the Pollution Control and Waste Management Policy, the National Climate Strategy and Action Plan and the Fifth National Development Plan,” Odede said in her World Environment Day address in Windhoek.
The UN official expressed concern that “plastic production continues to rise and continues to impact our planet, including the beautiful Namibia. Namibia is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change and thus the negative impact of plastics in our environment”.
Odede has made assurance that the UN System in Namibia is committed to partner the government, guided by the United Nations Partnership Framework 2019-2023 to ensure environmental sustainability.
“At the end of the day, if we do not substantially reduce our plastic waste, there will be severe consequences for biodiversity, human health and food security. Together, we can protect the environment and ‘beat plastic pollution’ to ensure that future generations can live in a healthy, clean and sustainable Namibia.
“A healthy planet is essential for a prosperous and peaceful future. We all have a role to play in protecting our only home, but it can be difficult to know what to do or where to start. That’s why this World Environment Day has just one request: beat plastic pollution,” she said.
Minister Pohamba concluded that: “Our efforts to beat plastic pollution will require the engagement and commitment of each and every Namibian and I particularly call on private sector companies and consumers to join us to spearhead this drive”.