by Peter Mutai
NAIROBI, March 15 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Wednesday commended Kenya for banning all production, use and import of plastic bags.
UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim said the move that will take effect in August is expected to inspire others and help drive further commitments to the Clean Seas campaign.
"Plastic waste also causes immeasurable damage to fragile ecosystems on land and at sea and Kenya's decision is a major breakthrough in our global effort to turn the tide on plastic," Solheim said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu on Wednesday announced a ban on the use, manufacture and import of all plastic bags, to take effect in six months.
The announcement came just three weeks after the UNEP declared a war on plastic through its new Clean Seas initiative, which has secured commitments to address major plastic pollution from ten governments.
Some 100 million plastic bags are handed out every year in Kenya by supermarkets alone, posing a challenge to the country's urban waste disposal, particularly in the poorest communities where access to disposal systems and healthcare is limited.
Plastic bags have been identified as a major cause of environmental damage and health problems. They kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, damage agricultural land, pollute tourist sites and provide breeding grounds for the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.
Kenya is the 11th country to take action in support of the UN Environment campaign. In Africa, Rwanda and Morocco have already banned plastic bags and other countries are set to announce measures in the coming weeks.