- The government in the 2009/2010 financial year, announced a total ban on all polythene bags, seeking to prohibit the importation, local manufacture, sale and or use of polythene bags, due to its health hazards
- Whereas different communities in Uganda have traditionally wrapped and prepared different foods in banana leaves, the use of polyethylene bags in place of banana leaves is still on the rise
By Ronald Orachwun
Arua- National Environment Management Authority NEMA has appealed to locals in West Nile region to desist from using polythene bags commonly known as Kaveera due to the health complications associated with its use.
Bob Nuwagira, the Senior Information, Education and Communications officer at NEMA says plastic bags are polymers which are very reactive when subjected to heat and has adverse effects on humans if consumed in large quantities.
“Kaveeras are very polymerous and are reactive to foods we eat especially when subjected to heat within 40 minutes to one hour. They contain chemicals and metals which are very dangerous when inhaled. Can we use another alternative like the banana leaves which are healthy?” he said while speaking to journalists in Arua.
His comment comes as government struggles to implement a total ban on all polythene bags as an environmental protection measure across the country.
A recent report compiled by Makerere University’s School of Food Technology Nutrition and Bio-engineering warns that exposure to some metals, such as mercury and lead, may also cause development of autoimmunity, in which a person’s immune system attacks its own cells. This can lead to joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system.
“Food sources such as vegetables, grains, fruits, fish, matooke, posho and shellfish can become contaminated by accumulating metals from being heated in polyethylene bags.”
The report also warns that the heavy metal exposure causes reduced growth and development, cancer, organ damage, damage to the nervous system, and in extreme cases, it can lead to fatalities.
Aiden Asekenyi, the principal environmental education coordinator at NEMA says the authority has created awareness of the masses and has registered positive responses from a number of individuals and supermarkets which are now substituting the Kaveera with paper bags which are dangerous to humans and the environment.
“One success story is that people are beginning to embrace the harmless paper bags especially supermarkets. You can vividly see a number of people carrying the paper bags despite a few who are still adamant to embrace the new change,” she said.
Adding: “As a government agency, we envisage an environment free from all the Kaveeras in the near future, and of course this is important because for the country to continue relying on agriculture as the main revenue earner, we need to get rid of Kaveeras because they spoil our fertile gardens.”
The Arua Resident District Commissioner, Oya Nahori, says despite remarkable strides being registered by the government in conserving the environment, little attention is being given by the local populace to the potential risks of bio-accumulation of plastic bag contaminants to human health.
“Our environment should be green, but our effort is being frustrated by you the people who are using the Kaveeras. Do you know that these Kaveeras spoil the gardens which you cultivate? We may not have where to cultivate if we don’t manage our land well and that means our people will be poor,” he said.