TEXT: Kenya is emerging as a leader in the fight against plastic pollution and is among the first countries in East Africa to limit single-use plastics and sign the Clean Seas initiative to clear yards water from plastic waste.
Juliette Biao, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) regional director for Africa, praised the country for banning plastic bottles, cups and cutlery in its national parks last year, a move which followed a nationwide ban on plastic bags. She also called the country’s efforts to stem the flow of plastic into its waterways an important step in reducing marine litter.
âKenya has invested heavily in policy and law enforcement to win the fight against plastic pollution. The result of this investment now strengthens Kenya’s environmental stewardship in Africa and globally, âsaid Biao.
His comments came during the virtual convening of the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, the world’s highest environmental decision-making body. Every two years, the assembly brings together the 193 UN member states, policy makers, civil society, scientists and the private sector to act on pressing environmental issues. The virtual session held in February 2021 will be followed by an in-person meeting in Nairobi in 2022.
Like many countries, Kenya has long struggled with plastic waste, which litter its Indian Ocean coast and often abounds in its lakes. In Mombasa, the country’s second largest city with some 2 million inhabitants, 3.7 kilograms of plastic per capita infiltrates water bodies every year.
Working closely with communities and in partnership with the private sector as well as with UNEP, Kenya’s national and decentralized governments are implementing a plastic waste management program – one that could be scaled up and replicated across the country. community in East Africa and beyond.
Kenya made headlines in 2017 when it banned single-use plastic bags. This was preceded by the country’s decision to sign the Clean Seas initiative, making it one of the first African countries to commit to limiting plastic in its waterways.
And, as of June 2020, visitors to Kenya’s national parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas are no longer able to carry plastic water bottles, mugs, disposable plates, cutlery or food. straws in protected areas.
It is not only its fight against plastic that makes Kenya a pioneer in ecology: the country was also one of the first to adopt the Green University Initiative. For more than a decade, universities across the country have focused on greening their campuses, while improving student engagement and learning. Higher education offers in environmental science, management and policy are also available in public and private institutions.
By stepping up efforts to green its economy, Kenya could use sustainability to boost economic growth, create jobs and lift people out of poverty.
âSince we started our engagement with poly bags and PET bottles, Kenya has seen increased investment in plastic recycling and several new players have joined us. We have stepped up environmental awareness of plastic pollution with our partners and are proud of initiatives such as FlipFlopi, which has demonstrated successful recycling of plastics, âsaid Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry from Kenya to the United Nations Environment Assembly. .
Two of the country’s largest industries – agriculture and tourism – could also provide sources of environmental innovation and job creation.
Such ambition extends beyond the country’s shores and returns to the waters, as the upcoming second expedition of the Flipflopi recycled plastic dhow aims to demonstrate. Kenya also has the opportunity to stimulate growth by creating a sustainable blue economy, using its maritime resources to create jobs and boost economic growth while ensuring the health of the ocean ecosystem.
Addressing the first African conference on the sustainable blue economy in Nairobi in 2018, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to put in place policies that harness the economic potential of Kenya’s oceans and coastlines. He called for strong action to reduce waste and plastic pollution that threatens food security, public health and marine life.
According to a 2018 guidance note released by the United Nations Development Program, the Western Indian Ocean, which covers the Kenyan coastline and most of East Africa’s shores, generates more than 22 billion dollars. US dollars per year in goods and services, including fishing, shipping, commerce, tourism and waste management. Kenya’s economic share was estimated at $ 4.4 billion per year.
With the right policies, especially those that invest in sustainable infrastructure and protect ecosystems along its maritime territory (which covers nearly 230,000 square kilometers); Kenya could increase the value of its blue economy.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021