Thursday, July 2, 2009

Buveera have no problem. It is we Ugandans

During the rainy season in Uganda, women who cannot afford umbrellas often choose to use plastic polythene bags (aka buveera) to cover their plaited hair to protect it from being soaked.

Now that government recently banned buveera, my neighbour Phiona may never get anymore buveera to cover her hair. She will have to save enough money to buy an umbrella. Alternatively, she should consider stocking enough buveera for the rainy day in future.

When the rain clouds disappear, Fifi - as we prefer to call her - dumps the kaveera on the streets, not caring where it could end up. And when the rains return, the flowing rain water always sweeps the dumped buveera into the water drainage channels.

Ugandans complained that the channels get blocked with rubbish, which causes flooding especially in the low-lying areas of Kampala, such as Bwaise. Then to address the problem Government moved to ban the use of buveera.

But if buveera would talk, they would accuse the Ugandans such as Fifi, of lacking discipline and manners. There are no demarcated dumping sites in Kampala, so, plastic rubbish is usually dumped on the street pavements, including the bio-degradable rubbish such as banana peelings. This is a sanitation challenge in our country.

The manufacturers of buveera are too engrossed in profits, to care about playing a role in sanitation. They could have established centres for collection of dumped plastic bags. This would ease the collection of recyclable plastics. The ban means that the 15 polythene manufacturing firms in the country will lose business, and with them hundreds of Ugandans will be unemployed.
But, on the other hand, several of Uganda's imports come wrapped in buveera. And I am wondering how government will enforce such a regulation to prevent the importation of good wrapped in buveera?

What should instead have been done is to place buveera bins to sort the rubbish. What could complicate the matter for recylcing the plastics is that these bags usually serve more purposes than what the manufacturers initially intended for them.

Slum dwellers use the plastic bags for toilets. This complicates recycling. This is why I think that buveera are not the problem. It is the Ugandans who have no culture of waste dumping. Then when we fail, we turn all the blame on the buveera. There are probably more buveera used in European countries such as France or UK. Ugandans could emulate this.

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