Lesotho joins regional effort to control plastic waste

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By Mamokete Makōkō

Lesotho has joined a regional project that shall see the movement of plastic waste across boundaries controlled and properly managed within the southern African Development Community (SADC) Member states.

Towards this effort, the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture hosted regional counterparts who led an inception workshop on a regional project intended to develop a regional strategy towards an “environmentally sound management and controlled transboundary movement on plastic waste management in the SADC region and strengthening regional capacity.

The National Environmental Secretariat Director Stanley Damane said Lesotho and the region will forge a concerted effort toward the elimination of plastic waste.

Damane added Lesotho is facing an imminent and serious plastic waste problem as part of the solid waste accumulation that the country has to deal with.

He said a 2006 baseline study for the Maseru district found that the district generated an annual average of 101000 tons of solid waste at the time.

“Among the waste, plastic presented 50 percent of the total waste. And it found its way to the dumpsites, open places, we must not forget rivers, including the ocean.

“Of the total plastic waste, the public widely recognizes that the use of plastic shopping bags is a major and visible problem in Lesotho.

“In an awareness conducted in 2008, a majority of respondents agreed that there was room to review the use of plastic shopping bags,” said Damane.

Damane said there is a need for proper management of waste management with a view to increasing both environmental and economic benefits along with improved quality had been realized over a decade and several initiatives have been embarked on.

Thandeka Mbatha, representative of the African institute leading the project a case study was done in the region where they found that SADC does not have a significant coordinated action inscribing the plastic waste management.

She said the region does not have data sets or a regional strategy for environmentally sound management (ESM) and control of transboundary movement (TBM) of plastic waste.

Mbatha said there is no priority on this, and that there is no policy and regulation and as well as implementation on the plastic waste and as a result of this, some countries have adopted a strategy where there was a total of certain plastics and consumption and the technical approach of plastic waste management.

“Five countries that are going to be funded under the project are Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi Tanzania and Zambia.

“The overall budget for the complete project is USD 177150 [about M2,871,602],” said Mbatha.

Mbatha further said the objective of this project is aimed at strengthening the environmentally sound management and controlled transboundary movement of plastic waste.

This, Mbatha said shall be implemented through the implementation of the Basel Convention in the SADC region.

She adds that this shall be “facilitated by improved national and regional-level information and data comprehensive and coordinated communication and planning; and targeted training, capacity building, and awareness-raising”.

Moleboheng Petlane, an Environmental Officer said the Local Government Act of 1997 only lists the functions that local authorities have to undertake of which environmental protection through prevention of pollution and that is the only legislation that Lesotho has with regards to waste management and plastic.

She said Lesotho has signed the Basel Convention therefore it is duty-bound to comply and domesticate the Basel Convention by putting in place an appropriate legal framework.

Africa Institute’s Executive Director Joseph Molapisi said Lesotho is part of a community of countries that build the agenda for the region therefore, it is deserving of the gratitude from the Africa institute.

He included that he is very confident that as the project continues, there will be sufficient buy-in then they will ensure the success of the project in Lesotho.

He added that as a region, they are not moving in unison when it comes to issues of dealing with plastic waste and that there are many health hazards and an uncoordinated approach to dealing with issues of plastic. He included that Lesotho cannot be clean if the neighbours are not clean.