Best of our wild blogs: 29 Aug 17



How reconnecting with nature can help us cope with floods
eco-business.com


Read more!

5-year-old boy dies after tree falls on him at Upper Bukit Timah Road

Channel NewsAsia 28 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: A five-year-old boy succumbed to his injuries and died after he was hit by a falling tree in Bukit Timah.

The incident took place on Aug 17 at the intersection of Upper Bukit Timah Road and Old Jurong Road. The tree also fell on a car, but no one in the vehicle was injured, police said.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was informed of the accident at approximately 3pm and sent an ambulance to the scene.

However, the injured boy had already been taken to the hospital prior to SCDF's arrival.

Channel NewsAsia understands that the boy was taken to National University Hospital but died of his injuries a week later, on Aug 24.

Source: CNA/ad


Spanish boy, 5, dies after tree falls on him in Bukit Timah
AsiaOne 28 Aug 17;

A five-year-old Spanish boy died in hospital last Friday (Aug 25) after getting struck by a fallen tree in Bukit Timah.

The incident happened on Aug 17 at around 4pm, reports Shin Min Daily News via Lianhe Zaobao.

The boy was seriously injured and rushed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for treatment.

A Facebook post by a church friend asked for the victim's friends and their family members to pray for his recovery.

It also revealed that the doctors could not operate on him, as his conditions were unstable.

It is understood that the boy's father is in Singapore for work and had brought his whole family over.

After receiving news that the boy had passed away, a 73-year-old witness to the incident said: "Such a young life, gone just like that. This is truly a tragedy."


Read more!

Malaysia: Environmental based NGOs strongly against reclamation project off the southwestern coast of Penang

MOHAMED BASYIR New Straits Times 28 Aug 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Environmental-based non-governmental organisations (NGO) are adamant that the proposed Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project should not be implemented in the state.

They claimed the reclamation project would indeed have negative effect on the environment, and also affect the livelihood of the fishing communities near the project site.

As such, they lauded Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's assurance that the project would not be approved if it was not environmentally friendly and if it had negative impact on the people.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said it was never in favour of the proposed 1,821ha reclamation project near Permatang Damar Laut.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris stressed that the project would indeed have negative effect on the environment and also the fishing communities near the project site.

Referring to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, Idris said it concurred that there would be an impact on the ocean food chain and the fishing industry due to total loss of mudflats.

"Loss of coastal habitat due to this proposed reclamation project is a major environmental blow," he told the New Straits Times today.

His statement came in the wake of Najib's announcement on the matter during a visit to Balik Pulau on Saturday.

Najib had also said that the reclamation project should be environmentally friendly and other alternatives which could save the people's money should be considered first.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch advisor D. Kanda Kumar, who echoed the same sentiment, stressed that there was no need for the reclamation to fund the state government's highly-ambitious multi-billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

Kanda said that the Penang government should look into cheaper alternatives for the proposed railway system for the PTMP.

He said that many developed countries were moving to on-ground railway systems as it was cheaper in terms of construction and maintenance, hence the state government should follow suit as well.

"The state government had proposed for an elevated railway, for a major part of the rail system. This itself is expensive as they need to build special terminals.

"In comparison, they should go with on-ground railway system. Russia, for example, is implementing this too. Easily accessible for the people and also as fast as the elevated ones," he told the NST when contacted.

Kanda stressed that the requirements laid-out by Najib were not a straight 'no' to the reclamation as the state government could go ahead with the project if it fulfilled the requirements.

The RM46 billion PTMP project was proposed to reduce traffic congestion. It included light rail transit (LRT), mass rapid transit (MRT) and several highways.

The overall project would take 50 years to be completeed.

Kanda said that the PTMP could be irrelevant at that time, considering the current advancement of transportation technologies.

"We are seeing automated cars...there might be far better transport system by the time the whole PTMP is implemented," he said.


Penang’s reclamation project still awaiting federal nod
R. SEKARAN The Star 28 Aug 17;

GEORGE TOWN: Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is questioning why Penang’s reclamation project has not been given the go-ahead yet while approval has been given to other states for their projects.

“Johor, Melaka and Kedah with bigger reclamation projects compared to Penang already have their approval from the Federal Government.”

Expressing his disappointment over Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement that he would not support the reclamation plans off the south of Penang island if the local fishermen’s livelihood was affected, Lim said the remark was a political one and not based on sound technical and environmental judgment.

On Saturday, Najib said the project was like putting sand into the rice bowl of the 1,500 fishermen here and if that was the case, the project should not be carried out.

Lim said Penang gave out the most compensation in Malaysia to fishermen affected by reclamation.

“The reclamation will not affect the fishermen greatly.

“They will still have access to sea through the proposed man-made islands,” he told reporters after opening the Japanese Technology Weekend at Tech Dome, Komtar yesterday.

The Penang South Reclamation Scheme is a massive plan to reclaim three islands totalling 1,800ha off the southern coast of Penang.

The success of the Penang Transport Masterplan, which is the state government’s multi-billion ringgit public transport project involving light rail transit, monorail, cable cars and water taxis, depends on funding from property development on the islands.

The environmental impact assessment of SRS was recently completed and is now awaiting federal approval.


Read more!

Indonesia: Police Arrest Man Suspected of Killing and Selling Sumatran Tiger

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 28 Aug 17;

Jakarta. A 58-year-old man identified by police by his initial, I, was arrested by the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s rapid response rangers, called Sporc, and police officers attached to the Mount Leuser National Park in North Sumatra, for reportedly killing a female Sumatran tiger on Sunday (27/08).

"We hope criminals who catch and sell protected wildlife can be severely punished. The government has already categorized environmental crime as part of 'extraordinary crime,' like drug crimes," Halasan Tulus, the law enforcement head at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry's (KLHK) Sumatra office, said in a statement on Monday.

Halasan has urged the public to report anyone selling or keeping parts of protected animals to the KLHK's Balai Gakkum agency.

According to the ministry's statement, the suspected poacher works as a harvester at a local palm oil plantation. He had set up a trap on the edge of Mount Leuser National Park after seeing tiger tracks around the area.

The female tiger was found dead in the trap seven days later. The suspect then contacted a buyer, known only as S, according to police.

The suspect was arrested in Sei Serdang, a village in the district of Langkat, where the two were supposed to meet.


Read more!

The Philippines: Catching tuna the sustainable way

Jonathan L. Mayuga Business Mirror 27 Aug 17

Meet Francis Silosia. At 36, he is already the captain of Ryan 628, a medium-scale commercial fishing vessel based in General Santos City, considered as the “tuna capital” of the Philippines.

This reporter met him on August 16 on board Ryan 628, which is one of seven commercial fishing vessels owned by a local businessman he works for.

Silosia, sitting on top of a blue container drum, flashed a smile as we shook hands when we were introduced to each other by Jimely Flores, a marine biologist at Oceana Philippines.

Silosia and some of the crewmembers were busy preparing for their next fishing expedition. One of them was overhauling a small engine while another was painting a smaller boat atop the katig, or outrigger to stabilize the boat.

Vessel monitoring

Oceana is pushing for the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 10654, or the Amended Fisheries Code, which requires commercial fishing vessels to install a vessel-monitoring device for proper monitoring and tracking.

An international ocean-conservation advocacy group, Oceana, said commercial fishing vessels often encroach the country’s 15-kilometer exclusive fishing ground for municipal fishers, and sometimes, even raid “no-take” marine reserves declared as protected areas under National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.

Municipal fishing grounds are supposed to be for the exclusive use of municipal fishers.

The Philippines has a total of 240 protected areas, including national 70 marine-protected areas (MPAs), 30 of which are predominantly marine areas.

There are also over 1,500 locally managed MPAs all over the country, where fishing is regulated, if not totally banned, to protect the breeding grounds of fish and other marine wildlife.

Oceana is eyeing to sponsor the subscription of 100 small-scale commercial fishing vessels for one year using the Futuristic Aviation and Maritime Enterprise Inc. (FAME) technology to boost its advocacy.

According to Oceana, two-thirds of the country’s fishing grounds are already overfished.

Recently, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Oceana Philippines have launched a project, dubbed as “Sagip Sardines”, to conserve and protect the fish species which is now being threatened by overfishing.

The project aims to create a National Management Framework Plan for sardines—the first of its kind in the Philippines—to address excessive sardines fishing and ensure the sustainability of the industry.

Commercial fishing is seen as the culprit behind overfishing. Besides excessively fishing, commercial fishing often use destructive or unsustainable fishing methods.

Unlike handline fishing, large-scale commercial fishing vessels use active gear, and are also known to use fish-aggregating device, or locally known as payao.

Trawling is the most destructive among commercial-fishing methods. It drags the net at the bottom of the ocean, often destroying corals.

The use of payao aggravates commercial fishing, as it attracts all sorts of fish—big or small—resulting in accidental by catch of nontargeted fish that are not commercially viable.

Pilot testing

Flores, along with Roger Guzman, Oceana’s legal policy officer; Aga Khan M. Salong, a member of the Quick Response Team of BFAR-Soccsksargen; and Ronaldo Aguila, the chief technology officer of FAME, just finished installing the FAME transponder which will track and monitor Ryan 628 as it sails to catch those commercially viable tuna.

The pilot-testing of the FAME transponder is in preparation for the nationwide implementation of RA 10654.

FAME is charging a monthly subscription of P800. The transponder and its installation is free of charge for a minimum subscription of three months, said Arcelio J. Fetizanan Jr., FAME CEO.

Section 2 of RA 10654 states that no commercial fishing vessel can fish without putting in place vessel-monitoring measures, which is basically a telecom or radio frequency-based monitoring system.

Large commercial fishing vessels, which usually fish beyond Philippine waters—whether in high seas or in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of other countries—are mandated to install satellite-based vessel monitoring system so they could be tracked anywhere, anytime while on a fishing expedition.

Handline fishing

On board the Ryan 628 are more than 20 of drums which contain either diesel, gasoline or the crew’s fresh-water supply.

The diesel is for the engine of Ryan 628, while the gasoline is for the smaller skiff boats called pakura.

Water is important while on a fishing expedition. Ryan 628 will be out fishing in the waters of Surigao for at least three weeks, which requires the crew to cook their food, and consume water for drinking and bathing.

Ryan 628 makes use of the handline fishing, which is considered as the most environment-friendly and sustainable fishing method. It basically makes use of hook, line and sinker to catch one fish at a time, in Ryan 628’s case, the commercially viable tuna.

Silosia has a total of 23 crewmembers. “We are just preparing things” for a fishing expedition in a few days, he said.

From General Santos City in Soccsksargen, it takes at least three days to reach Mangagoy or Bislig, which is part of the country’s EEZ off the waters of Caraga region’s Surigao del Sur—one of the country’s tuna-fishing grounds.

There, Silosia and his crew, using the smaller skiff boats, will catch tuna using squids as bait attached to the hook, and apple-sized rocks as sinker.

“It’s seasonal. If we are lucky, we get to go back after 15 days. Sometimes, we had to stay for a month just to catch enough tuna to cover for the cost of our operation,” he said in mixed Tagalog and Visayan languages.

He added to cover for the cost of gasoline and food of the crew, they have to catch at least 100 tuna with an average weight of 40 kilos.

Learned skill

Like most fisherman, Solisia said he started fishing at the young age of16. Because he learned how to trouble shoot and fix the boat’s engine, he became a second engineer in 2010.

It was only recently that he finally got the chance to run his own fishing vessel as captain.

He said Ryan 628 will not go beyond the Philippines’s EEZ, although sometimes, he admits some commercial fishing vessels go as far as Indonesia or China to catch fish.

Silosia is not much into high-tech gadgetry but he knows what transponders do.

“I was told by my operator that they [BFAR and Oceana people] will install the vessel-monitoring device today,” he said.

Flores said the boat, which is made of wood, has a gross tonnage of 26.6 tons and is, hence, classified as a medium-scale commercial fishing vessel under RA 8550 as amended by the amended Fisheries Code.

The gross tonnage (GT) of the vessels classify commercial fishing whether it is small scale (3.1 GT to 20 GT), medium scale (20.1 GT to 150 GT) or large scale (150 GT and above).

Lucrative trade

General Santos City hosts the biggest tuna landing area in the city’s fish port. In fact, a separate market is dedicated for big tuna alone.

The industry employs thousands of tuna catchers. There are around 3,000 commercial fishing vessels based in General Santos City. A small-scale fishing vessel hires an average of 20 tuna-catchers and crew.

Richard Intia, or Teteng to his fellow catcher, said while the job is difficult, it pays to be a tuna catcher, who earns a commission for every tuna he catches.

One time, he said he earned P15,000 for the 15 tuna caught during that fishing expedition.

“I was happy to bring home that amount of money. Everyone was happy. We had a little celebration,” he said. The 23-year-old father of two started tuna catching at 14.

The industry provides jobs and livelihood, not only to tuna catchers, but to a lot more whose livelihood directly or indirectly depend on the day-to-day tuna-catching activities—including exporters, food processors, fish dealers, market vendors and ice dealers.

Tuna is sold whole, then chopped and packed. Even internal organs, fins and tails of tuna are sold, processed as fishmeal.

Every day, commercial fishing vessels dock at the fish port to unload their haul. On the average small-scale commercial fishing vessels bring 100 tuna weighing around 40 kilograms (kg) to 50 kg. Some tuna being sold at the fish port weighs up to 100 kilos.

Tuna is sold at P180 to P220 per kg, depending on the quality of the meat. Romeo Ortiz, a tester, checks the quality of tuna meat. He has been working at the fish port since he was a teenager.

Mario Liquit, 74, remains employed as a consultant of Arnold Sison, who is in the buy and sell of prized blue marlin and black marlin.

“If am lucky, in three hours I am done buying tuna. I sell them in Manila, to where I bring them via plane. I can earn as much as P10,000 a day,” Sison said.

His buyer, he added, chops and repacks the tuna for export.

Unsustainable

The tuna industry in the Philippines continue to grow as more have expressed interest in catching the fish, an official of the BFAR Soccsksargen Office told the BusinessMirror.

Despite a moratorium in the processing of new applications, new commercial fishing vessels have been sighted in General Santos City, said Ely Borbon, chief of the BFAR Soccsksargen’s Leasing and Licensing Section.

The three-year moratorium, which started in 2014, will end by the end of this year. This means the BFAR will have to accept and process new applications starting next year, Borbon added.

According to the Food and Agriculture Office (FAO) of the United Nations, the value at land of the 2010 catch of the principal species was more than $10 billion.

The species are landed in numerous locations around the world by fishing vessels from more than 85 countries, the FAO reported.

The FAO reported that the main tuna stocks are currently more or less fully exploited, some are overexploited and very few are underexploited.

As such, the FAO said that the future sustainability of tuna fisheries calls for improved and strengthened fisheries management through incentives for international cooperation and for better national monitoring and fishery management; innovative systems for monitoring and management; and capacity development for fisheries research and management, particularly in developing countries.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. The country is also a party to various regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), such as the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and other tuna RFMOs

As such, the Philippines is compelled to implement measures, such as vessel-monitoring systems in accordance with the convention and resolutions of RFMOs.

Unless catching tuna on a massive scale stops to allow the remaining tuna stocks to repopulate, there will less tuna to catch soon, and none of the species left later on.


Read more!

Vietnam: More efforts needed to preserve biodiversity on Ly Son Island

VNA 28 Aug 2017;

Hanoi (VNA) – Destructive human activities have put coral reefs, sea grass beds and many other marine species off Ly Son Island at risk in recent years, with local authorities urged to make more efforts to preserve the unique ecosystem.

Ly Son Marine Reserve in central Quang Ngai province, covering Ly Son Island and its surrounding areas, has a water surface of more than 7,100 hectares, including the 620-hectare no-take zone, an area of more than 2,000 hectares for ecology restoration and another for development stretching across 4,470 hectares.

The sea protected area is known for high biodiversity and an ecosystem that houses many rare marine species like black coral, maxima clams and abalone. But these creatures are in danger of extinction due to the activities of local people.

Fishermen have used explosives to kill many fish, seriously harming coral reefs. Meanwhile, hundreds of locals harvest natural brown seaweed, which offers shelter for many sea creatures, every May and June. They can harvest an average of 3-5 tonnes of brown seaweed daily, making it difficult to recover.

In addition, more than 150,000 sq.m of sand from beaches is exploited each year to cultivate garlic, causing coastal erosion and depleting sea grass beds.

To solve the problems, the provincial People’s Committee adopted a project to use advanced technology to restore coral reefs near Ly Son Island in 2015.

Experts have been sent to survey the coral reefs and raise local awareness of the importance of animal and environmental protection. Local authorities and residents have also been provided with training on how to recover coral reefs.

A model for coral recovery piloted across 2 hectares of the marine reserve has developed well, giving hope of bringing back endangered species and increasing local seafood yields.

The province urged Ly Son Island to intensify management of the sea protected area by requesting tour operators strictly comply with the reserve’s regulations and keeping close watch on the density and development of rare sea species.

The island was also urged to get local people involved in protecting natural resources and to guide them to fish sustainably.-VNA


Read more!

Vietnam: Biologist warning on building paper mill

VietNamNet Bridge 28 Aug 17;

A planned wood-pulp plant in Binh Son District would destroy 50ha of nipa palm forest, causing pollution, loss of biodiversity, and irrevocable damage to local lifestyles, biologists and residents warn.

Biologist and vice rector of Da Nang’s Teachers’ Training College Vo Van Minh made the case against the plant in a petition to the provincial People’s Committee last week.

As planned, the province will allow the agricultural irrigation development company VNT 19 to build a paper mill in Long Phu Village in the district’s Binh Phuoc Commune. The mill would require the construction of an 85ha lake in the commune, of which 50ha are to be built where a century-old nipa palm forest now stands.

Construction on the plant will likely not begin for two to three years, as ministries and departments conduct assessments on the planned facility.

Local residents say they rely on the forest for survival. Nguyen Ngoc Minh, 70, said he grew up with the nipa palm forest, and it creates a major income for some households living around the forest.

“Local residents still fish in the forest and collect leaves of nipa palm for house building. We could earn VND300,000 (US$13.3) each day from fishing in the area,” Minh said.

“The forest creates a ‘green’ landscape and shelter for aquatic fish, shrimp and oyster. It also protects our farming land from erosion and salinity,” he said, adding that the forest had sheltered the army’s soldiers and guerillas during wars in the 20th century.

Vo Van Minh said that 400 households in the area rely on the forest for income from fishing and leaf collecting.

Nguyen The Nhan, chairman of Binh Phuoc Commune said the province had asked the company to replant an area of forest equivalent to which would be cleared to build the lake. The province proposed a VND25 billion (US$1.1 million) payment from the company for the replanting.

Vo Van M├Čnh said the province should conduct an assessment of the environmental impact on nipa palm forest and coastal mangrove swamps in Binh Son District before approving an industrial project.

Minh, who is head of Environment Biological Resource Teach Research Team (DN-EBR), said the team, in co-operation with the Centre of Biodiversity Conservation, GreenViet, a NGO, had surveyed the biodiversity in the nipa palm forests and mangrove swamps in the district and found them extremely rich.

Local residents go fishing in the nipa palm forest in Binh Phuoc Commune of Binh Son District in Quang Ngai Province. A 50ha portion of the forest is allocated for the development of a paper mill project.

“Seventy five species of flora and fauna were found on total 120ha of nipa palm forest. The 100-year-old forest area is also a safe shelter for 26 migrant bird and waterfowl species. Almost 90 per cent of aquatic animals and fishes in the coastal area are grown in the ecological system of nipa palm forest before moving to the sea,” Minh said.

The controversy over the wood-pulp plant comes as the region struggles to balance conservation with economic development. According to latest report from the provincial agriculture and rural development, the province has 197ha of coastal mangrove forest, nearly 60 per cent decrease from 2002.

In 2015, the province grew 45.7ha coastal mangrove forest in three communes of Binh Phuoc, Binh Dong and Binh Duong in the district under the Climate Change Resilience and coastal mangrove swamp project.

But regrowth projects can’t keep pace with the destruction of forests. Last month in Binh Son District, a microorganism, Sphaeroma terebrans Bate (a mangrove-boring isopod) killed 32.4ha of mangrove.
VNS


Read more!

'Beyond anything experienced': Devastation as Harvey floods Houston

Channel NewsAsia 28 Aug 17;

HOUSTON: Catastrophic flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Harvey inundated Houston on Sunday (Aug 27), forcing residents of the fourth most populous US city to flee their homes in boats or hunker down in anticipation of more days of "unprecedented" rainfall.

Harvey came ashore late on Friday as the most powerful Category 4 hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years and has killed at least three people.

The death toll is expected to rise as the storm triggers additional tidal surges and tornadoes, with parts of the region expected to see a year's worth of rainfall in the space of a week.

The city's two main airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Hobby International, suspended all commercial flights and two hospitals were forced to evacuate patients. A local television station also was knocked off the air.

The National Weather Service said more than 60cm of rain fell in Houston and nearby Galveston in a 24-hour period. Another 50cm was expected.

Harvey ripped off roofs, flipped mobile homes and left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark on the Gulf Coast, home to some of the country's most important oil refineries.

Tornado warnings were in effect in several parts of the area.

"The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before. Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for days," the National Weather Service said on Twitter.

Rising waters from Harvey inundated roads throughout the Houston area, affecting every major freeway and hamstringing efforts to move people to safety.

"It's crazy to see the roads you're driving on every day just completely under water," Houston resident John Travis told AFP.

Another city resident, Brit Dreger, said: "It doesn't look like we're going anywhere for a while."

Overwhelmed emergency services warned residents to head for high ground or climb onto rooftops - not into attics - so they could be seen by rescue helicopters. More than 1,500 rescues had been made so far.

Houston opened community centres to shelter people forced out of their homes, but Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner appealed to residents to stay put and not call the 911 emergency line unless they faced a life-threatening situation.

Flood-stranded residents took to social media with desperate pleas to be rescued from their homes. The Twitter account of the sheriff of Harris County, which includes most of Houston, was inundated with rescue requests.

Kathaleen Hervey was among many who turned to Twitter for help, saying a resident she knew needed to be rescued.

"He is trapped and can't get through 911 or any of the emergency numbers, send a boat!!!" she tweeted to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Others shared photos on social media of the devastation left in the storm’s wake. Here are some of the most stunning images:

Source: Reuters/AFP/cy/aa


Read more!

Using Plastic Bags Is Now Illegal — And Punishable By Jail Time — In Kenya

EYDER PERALTA NPR 28 Aug 17;

No matter where you go in Kenya — from the vast expanses of the Great Rift Valley to the white-sand beaches off the Indian Ocean — one thing is a constant: plastic bags.

They hang off trees and collect along curbs. And in Kibera, a sprawling slum in Nairobi, there are so many of them that they form hills.

But beginning today, almost all plastic bags are illegal in Kenya. Beginning today, if you're carrying your groceries in a plastic bag or put out your trash in a disposable one, you could be fined up to $38,000 or be sent to jail for up to four years.

"It is a toxin that we must get rid of," Judi Wakhungu, the country's Cabinet secretary for the environment, told reporters. "It's affecting our water. It's affecting our livestock and, even worse, we are ingesting this as human beings."

Kenya isn't the first country in the region to ban plastic bags. Rwanda banned them in 2008, and the East African Community has talked on-and-off about issuing a regional ban.

But that has been difficult and controversial, in large part because of economics. Kenya, for example, has tried to institute a ban several times in the past decade. But the country has continued not only to consume large amounts of plastic, but to produce many of the plastic products for the region. The Kenyan Association of Manufacturers, which challenged the ban in court, said nearly 3 percent of all Kenyans are directly employed by the 176 plastic manufacturers in the country. The ban, they argued, will cost cost Kenya tens of thousands of jobs.

Then there is the issue of convenience. When I visited Kibera in June to report on the proposed ban, residents overwhelmingly opposed it.

I found Julius Moleil selling charcoal in the middle of the slum's market. The plastic bags, he said, create an economic cycle all their own.

In his case, he said, no one will buy charcoal if there isn't a clean and cheap way to carry it around. He gives his customers plastic bags, but he also creates a job when he buys those used plastic bags from a man who collects and cleans them.

In a place where many people live off less than $2 a day, he said, those few cents makes a huge difference.

Kenneth Okoth, a member of Parliament who represents Kibera, opposed the ban because he said it would affect his poor constituents the most. In Kibera there is little running water, no toilets or outhouses, but the ban will affect the so-called flying toilets — plastic bags residents use to defecate and urinate in.

"It may look very fashionable in international circles," he said. "But in reality, in a place like Kibera, we still need those plastics."

Okoth said he understands and supports the need to clean up the environment. But there are better ways to do that, he said, than a blanket ban on plastics.

"It's not the plastic's fault," he said. "It's a lack of a system to collect the plastic and reuse it and make a value chain out of it beyond that first usage."

In Nairobi, supermarkets have started heeding the ban. Many have switched from plastic bags to reusable, cloth sacks, but a quick drive around Nairobi revealed that plastic bags are still in use. So far, there have been no reports of any enforcement actions.

Wakhungu, the environment minister, said the government's intent is "not to arrest Kenyans."

"I know they will comply," she added. "But the law is in place."


Read more!