Somalis ignore plastic bag ban

Mogadishu- Somalia (PANA) -- On 1 March the Trade and Industry ministry in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland banned the production, importation, selling or use of plastic bags in Somaliland but three weeks on, indications are that no one has taken notice of the injunction.
Indeed the local plastic factory in the capital, Hargeisa still manufactures tons of plastic bags and management does not appear set to halt production by the time a 120-day period of grace granted by Trade and Industry minister Nuur Omar Sheikh Muse runs out.
According to Muse, the ban was imposed after the government assessed the adverse effects of plastic bags on the environment, including littering and ingestion by animals.
"It was a disaster in the making, and the long term effects could endanger the human and animal life," the Minister pointed out, saying the ban would be accompanied by a public education campaign.
Sheikh Muse said government had alerted port and airport officials to be on the lookout for importers who defy the ban.
Importers, though, dismiss the measure, saying would yield nothing since the public has no cheaper and reliable alternative.
Hargeisa's main market and busy streets are still awash with the plastic bags, commonly known as "Hargeysa Flower" because they are found sticking and flapping from tree branches in the town.
Women find them ideal when shopping for vegetables, and many say they are not ready to drop the plastic bags for any other container, insisting they were easily affordable and flexible.
"It's each to fold and, unlike paper backs, can also carry considerable weight of grocery without tearing," notes Faisa Mohamed, a mother of two who lives in one of Hargeisa's suburbs.
"If the government wants us to stop using the bags, it should provide us with a good and lasting alternative for free.
Most of us cannot afford baskets and containers," says fellow resident Asha Mohamed.
Elsewhere in the busy streets of Hargeisa the bags are widely used for packaging by people hawking khat, a stimulant chewed by most men in Somaliland.
Hawker Ibrahim Omar says the bags keep the khat under optimum temperature, adding that plant loses a lot of moisture when exposed to the dry and hot weather.
"In fact this plastic bag is like a "fridge" for the buyers.
Without it the plant would dry up in minutes and the buyer would not get the stimulation he desires," Omar explains.

23 march 2005 12:34:00

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