Hiking and mountain climbing are becoming popular leisure activities in Kenya among locals and foreigners.
You will always find a trip to a given forest or park every weekend or during holidays, from day trips to camps and overland safaris.
It is fun and smiles until one, two, three people start leaving their waste materials in the forests. It might be hard to notice that someone left their dirt behind. The guards and the next visitors often encounter this.
But, isn’t it time we tightened measures against plastic pollution in our parks and forests?
YES! Introduce hefty penalties and fines in all parks applicable to anyone who enters the park with a plastic beverage can or bottle and comes back without them. Let them declare what they have on entry and exit.
Single-use plastic ban: Kenya and other nations
The ban on single-use plastics in protected areas effective from June 5th, 2020, was announced by President Uhuru earlier year. Single-use plastic ban Kenya
Kenya joins other countries that have enforced or announced their commitment to implementing the ban, such as Seychelles and some States in the United States of America.
The ban is supported under Kenya’s 2010 Constitution article 42 that mandates the government to assure and provide a safe and clean environment for all Kenyans. 2010 Constitution Kenya
Article 69 of the same constitution, on the other hand, mandates the state to eliminate activities and processes that are likely to damage the environment. The same article provides that every person has a responsibility to cooperate with state organs and other persons to protect and conserve the environment.
Thus, every individual utilizing the forests and parks for whatever activity should bear the greatest responsibility of the wastes they generate. Polluter Pays Principle should be applied- you pollute you pay immediately without any negotiations.
It is not the responsibility of the guards and guides to collect the dirt. Their work is to provide security and direction. However, they are forced to be picking the trash.
It is out of carelessness and negligence that prompt people to throw dirt anyhow and especially inside forests and parks. It is common sense to keep it cleaner than it was found. Better still, stay at home if you cannot be environmentally cautious.
Scenarios and Call for Action
Being a regular hiker, I have experienced a considerable difference in forests where strict measures against single-use plastics are being exercised and areas where these rules haven’t been enforced.
Karura forest is a classic example. You cannot enter the forest with a plastic water bottle; picnicking is not allowed. The Forest in Kimende is also another place that does not allow picnicking. The outcome is super clean, calm, and welcoming surroundings.
The same should be applied in all the protected areas across the country. We don’t have to wait until June 5th, 2020, when the ban takes effect. We need to start inculcating the culture now.
Hikers can be active ambassadors for this. I must applaud most of the hikers who have taken the responsibility of collecting plastics as they hike and for continually reminding their group members to leave the forests cleaner than they found.
This article was also published in the Star Newspaper under the title Plastics threat to forests and parks