Members of Parliament (MPs) sitting on the Committee of Natural Resources have expressed shock that government has already embarked on a process to amend the National Environment Act, 2018, with a likely aim to implement a total ban focusing on the manufacturing of polythene bags.
The National Environment Act, 2018, was passed by Parliament in November of last year and sought to repeal the National Environment Act Cap.153 and replace it with a law that conforms to existing government policies and other relevant laws.
It banned single-use carrier bags below 30 microns.
The law obliges manufacturers of polythene bags and plastics to recycle plastic waste and also label the polythene bags.
Industries engaged in producing plastics are also required to give an annual report on the amount of plastic they have produced, how much has been collected from the public and how much has been recycled. President Yoweri Museveni signed the Act into law in February this year.
However, Parliament recently received a petition from the Uganda Plastics Manufacturers and Recyclers Association accusing the Minister of Karamoja Affairs, Eng. John Byabagambi of threatening to have their factories closed down.
The manufacturers led by Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) Manager for Policy and Advocacy, Allan Ssenyondwa told committee members on Tuesday, that during a previous meeting with Minister Byabagambi, he assured them that government was soon moving to have their factories closed down.
“We are law abiding and have been working towards encouraging every plastic manufacturer to set up a recycling plant at the factory as required by the new law,” Ssenyondwa said.
“But we were shocked when the Minister warned us to the effect that our factories will be soon closed down as a way of implementing a total ban on Kaveera,” Ssenyondwa said.
However, while appearing before the House Committee on Tuesday, Minister Byabagambi denied ever threatening to ban production of polythene bags which meet the required microns, noting that he has no such powers.
Byabagambi revealed that he is currently implementing a directive from President Yoweri Museveni issued to him in a letter dated June 17, 2019.
The Minister said he was appointed to head a Cabinet committee that would draft and present a paper to Cabinet for discussion within four weeks.
The committee comprises of Byabagambi, the State Minister for Agriculture, Christopher Kibazanga and Dr. Mwanje a scientist from the Ministry of Defense.
“After receiving the letter, I called for a meeting well aware of the outcry of manufacturers. We decided to make consultations which is a process followed whenever forming a Cabinet paper so that Cabinet can discuss before it takes a decision,” Byabagambi said.
“I was fair enough to involve them (Plastic Manufactures Association) in the consultative meetings, we also met with UMA, KCCA and UNBS”.
The Minister said the consultations are still going on and he will soon be visiting their factories.
“We haven’t consulted all stakeholders and I feel it is proper that we consult widely and we inform Cabinet from an informed point of view, so that Cabinet takes appropriate decision whether to ban or not to ban,” Byabagambi noted.
Before the committee, Byabagambi appeared along with the Trade Minister, Amelia Kyambadde among other government officials.
The legislators wondered why government would move so fast to carry out consultations on the new law whose regulations haven’t even been formulated.
In response, Byabagambi said, “It’s true, I participated in the passing of the law and I think I can’t be the person to fight the law but laws are not cast in stone, laws can be amended and there is a procedure to be followed.”