BY JAMES CHAVULA
BLANTYRE, MALAWI: Hundreds of Lilongwe residents, students, environmentalists and campaigners took to the streets on Saturday in a global push to end plastic pollution.
The Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ) mobilised people of all walks to pick plastic bags that litter the streets of the capital.
However, the clean-up campaign was marred by lack of garbage collection trucks from Lilongwe City Council who backtracked at the eleventh hour on account of zero allowances for its workers.
The ‘Green Awareness Walk came days after the World Environment Day commemorated on June 5 whose theme calls on all nations to beat plastic pollution.
AEJ and its partners shifted the observance to Saturday for the convenience of students and the working class.
The marchers, carrying placards demanding an end to plastic waste, walked from Lilongwe Community Ground to Bwaila Secondary School via M1.
The procession, led by Malawi Prison Brass Band, made three stops where speakers from Lilongwe University of Science and Technology, Civil Society Network on Climate Change and National Youth Network on Climate Change spoke on the dangers of the plastic epidemic, including soil degradation and stifling marine life in lakes and oceans.
They distributed 2000 “Think Green” stickers to motorists, according to AEJ.
“Honestly, I have never seen people seriously talking about issues of plastics in Malawi. When I read some of the placards, I was really impressed and that’s why I made a brief stop to grasp more and watch the brass band perform also” said Shanina Rose, from Area 25.
Speaking at Bwaila Secondary School, in Malawi’s Capital City, director of environmental affairs in the Ministry of Natural Resources Energy and Mining, Tawonga Mbale-Luka, said time has come for Malawians to realise that plastics hurt the environment, including farms, water bodies and public health.
“We do not necessarily have to wait for the courts to say how bad they are when scientific evidence is available for all to read,” she said in reference to a long-awaited court ruling on the legality of the ban on production, importation and use of thin plastics.
Plastic manufacturers in Malawi obtained an injunction restraining the government from banning thin plastics of less than 50micron metres.
“We are happy that we still have people who agree with us that we need to ban thin plastics in Malawi. I want to encourage you to keep the momentum high because you are doing the right thing. As a government, we are waiting to hear what the courts will say on the case and we only hope it will be in our favour,” said Luka.
AEJ Secretary General, Charles Mkoka said they were happy with the attendance, as the march got rid of a truckload of plastic litter from the streets.
However, he bemoaned the city council’s last-minute withdrawal from the initiative to make the capital city a little cleaner.
“We regret to note that despite giving us a go ahead to conduct this walk and accepting to provide the trash van and servicemen to assist in the exercise, the city authorities on late Friday afternoon changed tuned by demanding fuel for the vehicle and allowances of up to K10 000 for each of the six to seven workers assigned to the event. We think this is very disappointing, retrogressive and something has to be done at the council which is fairly not doing good on waste management” Said Mkoka.
He said the conditions were not mentioned two weeks ago when they paid application fees to the council. The walk was financed by AEJ members, UNDP and Ministry of Natural Resources Energy and Mining.