still do not have the capacity yet to deal with this growing menace. Our present levels of technology, environmental awareness, education and cultural practices cannot deal with the consequences of our new-founded taste for plastic wrappers. The time has come for us to collectively reconsider how we satisfy our thirst and how we package our consumables without damaging our environment.
I do know, Mr. Speaker, that some of our neighbours in the subregion do not have sachet water industries but interestingly their people do not go thirsty and their environment is the better off for it. This compulsive and recently acquired lifestyle of ours of wanting to satisfy our thirst, real or imagined, anywhere and at anytime must change. There are other options for satisfying this important need which can be explored and commercially exploited.
Mr. Speaker, if we feel reluctant to give up the petty convenience of being able to buy, drink water and dispose of the container anywhere, anytime, in vehicles, along the streets, at social gatherings and wherever, then we must be told the truth: That this habit is destroying our current and future sources of water. It is destroying the fertility of our soil and devaluing our immediate environment. The choked drains encourage the breeding of mosquitoes and facilitate flooding. We wait with bated breath the coming of the rains. Our fishermen these days sometimes drag ashore plastic waste instead of fish. We are selfishly mortgaging the survival of future generations for the convenience of the current generation.
Mr. Speaker, in the Friday, April 8, 2005 edition of the Daily Graphic, on page 40 is a story which makes interesting reading. The story titled “Moves to rid
country of plastic waste” captures the narrow way in which we see the problem and our seeming helplessness to deal with it. In a speech read on her behalf, the sector Minister had listed three options to deal with the problem, but these were not given the needed prominence and have not received any serious commentary.
My suspicion is that the options are not palatable to those who stand to gain from our inaction. The Minister's comments need to be highlighted and further debated. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I quote the relevant portion of the story:
“The options that the Ministry is considering include a law to make manufacturers of all plastic products to provide only bio-degradable products, taxes to raise money for the management of plastic waste and a ban on plastic sachet for water and plastic bags.”
Elsewhere in the story, prominence is given to cash awards of ¢500,000 to winners of a drawing competition on waste management. As a people, we seem to enjoy going round grave problems by turning them into funfares; but this is a grave matter. The Accra Metropolitan Assembly is quoted in that story as spending ¢2.35 billion every month on waste disposal; and this is only for Accra. Meanwhile, the drains around the city continue to be choked by plastic wastes and the malaria-carrying mosquito is still having a field day. Even then the debate seems to have relegated our countryside to the backyard.
Mr. Speaker, people do not normally change because they see the light; they only do so when they feel the heat. No amount of advice or admonition can get producers and users of plastic containers to switch to bio-degradable alternatives, as long as the cost implications do not favour them.
Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to call on Parliament to speak with one voice and support a programmed nationwide ban on the following uses of plastics, to be enforced, within a timeframe not exceeding two years:-
Packaging of cooked foods from vendors
Other mass usage like ice creams, powdered foods, soaps, et cetera.
The time-span will allow the forward- looking industrialist to adopt more environmentally friendly packaging. Most of the small-scale sachet water producers can reinvest their capital in other areas of the economy with appropriate support from the Ministry of Private Sector Development and President's Special Initiatives. The exit barriers for sachet water producers are low and with a little support they will not lose their livelihoods.
Before I conclude, I must draw attention to the looming litigations that are bound to follow from efforts by the Accra Metropolitan Authority to ban the production and sale of sachet water. The issue of plastic waste is a national one which requires a broad and compre-hensive approach. What is required is a national policy which will empower individual Assemblies to enforce regulations emanating from the ban. Parliament must take a stand.
Mr. Speaker, after reviewing the larger picture and taking the long-term view, I submit that it is best for our environment