Plastic pollution remains biggest environmental problem

Juba landfill site: open dumping of waste and associated air pollution. Photo Credit: Peter Gilruth, Environmental Pulse Institute.

By David Mono Danga

Three years after the government issued a ban on plastic carrier bags the country is still chocked with the menace.

It is a problem that the Minister of Environment Josephine Napwon Cosmas admitted to be the greatest environmental hazard that the country is facing.

Speaking at the launch of the South Sudan’s first State of Environment and Outlook Report 2018 during the celebration of the World Environmental Day on Tuesday, Napwon blamed plastic pollution problem on urbanization.

“Disposal of plastics has serene environmental damages. That is why we should join the world in eradicating plastic pollution. It has become the most environmental problem in the country especially in urban centers,” Napwon said.

She said South Sudanese should abandon the habit of littering the environment adding that protecting the environment is a collective responsibility.

“Keeping the city clean is a collective responsibility. Avoid throwing garbage,” Napwon added.

According to the report Juba is one of the world’s fastest-growing cities. Its population is about 350,000-400,000 and South Sudan’s urban population is expected to grow fourfold from 2014 to 2050.

Garry Louis, the Director, of Policy and Programmes at the United Nations Environment Headquarters said eradicating plastic pollution requires commitment from the country’s top leadership.

“The top leadership will lead the way towards succeeding in getting rid of the plastics that pollute the environment and kill animals and plants. Together we can stop plastic pollution,” Garry said.

He added that the report can be used as a basis to overcome the environmental challenges in the country.

In an exclusive interview with Juba Monitor, James Wakibia an environmental activist who started the successful  campaign against plastic in Kenya  through his #ISupportBanPlasticKE social media campaign applauded South Sudan for  taking  measures  in protecting their environment against  single use paper bags.

Wakibia cited that the fact that there was an existing law in the country was a positive move.

“For such a young country to seek to end such environmental waste and seek better solution into solid waste management is commendable. It is one of the East African countries which shows they have an interest to protect future generations from pollution,” he added.

He however challenged the government to put all the right structures in place for the implementation.

“With the backing of the hand of the government they will be able to eradicate the bags just like it happened in Kenya a year ago,” said Wakibia.

In 2015 the ministry of environment imposed a ban on the importation and use of plastics bags. However, the implementation has not been successful as witnessed by the clogging of the bags.

Researchers say plastic bags have negative effects on the environment especially on land and waterways because of its non-biodegradable nature.

The environmental report says the collection, transportation and final disposal of both solid and liquid waste are inefficient or non-existent in most of South Sudan. As much as half of urban waste is either dumped openly or burned, resulting in the proliferation of vectors, flies, rodents, pathogens and foul odours, soil pollution, the destruction of wildlife habitat, and air pollution that results in respiratory illnesses among the population.

The report indicates that because of poor or absent municipal waste collection, households dispose of their waste, much of which is composed of plastics, in unsightly informal dumps, on roadsides and in other public spaces.

Global Organisers are inviting the global population to consider how people can make changes in their everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on the natural environment, wildlife and people’s health — and it’s a matter of urgency, they say.

According to the environment conservation the throwaway culture that exists in much of the world means plastic pollution continues to reach unfathomable levels.

It says in total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is discarded after a single use.

“Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. On average, a person uses a plastic bag for just 12 minutes but the same bag takes 500 years to decompose,” the environment conservation said.

The environmental report concludes that South Sudan must take action to maintain peace and security, manage internal migration and settlement of people. That the country should create income and employment generating activities by promoting agriculture and industrial development, attracting investments, building infrastructure, developing tourism industry, formulating policy and legislative frameworks, establishing implementation mechanisms for protection and sustainable use of natural resources, and developing climate resilient communities.

It says South Sudan has the opportunity to develop as a prosperous nation once peace and normalcy return.


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