By The Africa Report, November 24, 2011
Ethiopia announced on Monday that it was banning the importation of plastic bags as part of the country's green growth initiatives. The country also launched a series of geo thermal, wind and hydro power projects.
The Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority confirmed that parliament had approved a bill to ban the importation of plastic bags into the country.
The initiatives, announced ahead of the climate change summit in Durban, South Africa follow Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's call for discussions on sustainable development to be speeded up.
Meles who has been elected twice by the African Union Commission as Africa's spokesperson on climate change negotiations said it was high time Africa focused on a green economy.
"Now, implementing this decision has started, which means plastic bags will no longer be imported and manufactured in the country," said the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority.electricity,
Ethiopia is among the first countries in Africa to take such measures to prevent the adverse effects of environmental degradation, as plastic bags are not easily degradable.
Environmental activists welcomed the decision, saying that it will play a significant role in keeping the environment clean and safe.
"The decision is good, especially if it is going to be implemented accordingly," said Solomon Metaferia. He said that there should be a strong monitoring method to make the law a reality and meaningful.
Environmental activists say that tens of millions plastic bags imported into the country annually adversely impact the food chain as some livestock tend to consume them.
But some argue that while the safety measure outweighs the practical side of the use of plastic bags, there needs to an be alternative.
"I use these plastic bags for shopping and to carry different things around, mainly because they are a lot cheaper and easy to handle," says Mengistu Mesfin, a resident of Addis Ababa, the capital.
"The ban is a good decision but we need to have an alternative. I wonder if there is one" Mesfin added.
Environmental activists on the other hand do not believe the government's move is enough to prevent unsafe practices. They want the government and concerned bodies to educate the public about the dangers of using plastic bags for the environment.
"We need to educate the public beyond implementing such a law. We have so many plastic bags in each of our houses, which might take years to clear," said Selamawit Lakewe, an environmental activist.
However, a number of Ethiopians interviewed by The Africa Report were not aware of the new law.
Early this week, the Horn of Africa country launched six wind power projects and one Geo Thermal Power plant with an electricity capacity of 1,015 megawatts as part of its move to become Africa's top green power exporter.
It is also undertaking a multi-billion 5,250 MW capacity hydro power project over the Nile River as part of a move to supply power to its neighbours.