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World Environment Day: How Africa is getting involved


Nompilo Gwala

June 5 is World Environmental day with the official celebrations happening in China, under the theme “Beat air pollution.”  Environmental issues are a global crisis with Africa said to be one of the hardest hit.

The United Nations state that every year an estimate of 7 million people worldwide die from air pollution and research has also shown that 92% of people do not breathe clean air.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the biggest contribution to air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, exhaust from factories and industries, indoor air pollution such as household cleaning products and mining operations.

In Africa, about 600 000 deaths are associated with the ‘silent killer’ known as air pollution. Rwanda, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya are one of the most eco-friendly countries in the African continent.

Rwanda is leading on green growth in the continent with its inclusive national target, known as Vision 2020.

The idea of Vision2020 is to encourage all Rwandans to integrate green growth and climate resilience strategies. Rwanda banned plastic bags in 2008 and this has been a successful campaign since it came into effect.

Rwanda wants to achieve its vision of a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy by 2050. They have applied policies, legislation and programmes to ensure national development is in harmony with the protection of the environment.

Tanzania recently made headlines when it became the latest African nation to ban plastic bags as an initiative to protect the environment. Anyone found in the possession of a plastic bag may face a fine or even imprisonment for two years.

Just decades ago, Kenya had no laws or regulations protecting its environment but over the years they have implemented laws that regulate the environment such as the Environmental Management and Co-ordination (Waste Management) Regulations 2006.

The Environmental Management and Co-ordination (Waste Management) Regulations 2006 controls the management of waste in general and for the management of solid waste, industrial waste, hazardous waste, pesticides and toxic substances.

It has the strictest laws in the African continent for the banning of plastic bags. If caught with plastic you may be imprisoned for up to four years or be fined with a high fee of $38 000 (roughly  R550 000).

However, South Africa was ranked as one of the ten worst countries for its impact on the environment, reports Business Ghana. The government implemented the National Climate Response Policy in 2010 in means to take action.

Its main aim is to “manage the transition to a climate-resilient, equitable and internationally competitive lower-carbon economy and society.”

UN General-Secretary Antonio Guteress shared an important message on World Environment Day on twitter.

“Air pollution kills 7 million people every year, hurts child development, damages economies and contributes to the global climate emergency,” said Guteress.




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