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Earth Day 2024: Are we prepared enough to tackle plastic pollution in Somalia?

Earth Day in Somalia

Each year on April 22, the world commemorates Earth Day as one of the largest global environmental movements. This year’s Earth Day theme, “Planet vs. Plastics,” highlights the detrimental effects of plastics on the environment, biodiversity and human well-being. On Earth Day, millions of people globally engage in various activities aimed at preserving the environment, protecting nature, and promoting sustainability. These activities may take different forms, such as reducing plastic usage, planting trees, and advocating for the planet and its inhabitants. In Somalia, the observance of Earth Day has been accompanied by an increasing effort to call for action for the planet, as the country is facing the threat of catastrophic climate shocks. This threat, along with political instability, fragility, and conflict, as well as the country’s vulnerability to climate crises and lack of capacity to mitigate and adapt, make Somalia one of the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change. However, over the last several years, Somalia has been taking corrective courses of action to protect its people and planet.

Plastics Vs Somalia

Plastics are unpleasant blessings. They are part of moderation revolutions to enhance consumers’ connivance, but unfortunately choked the planet. It is not surprising to see scattered single-use plastics clogging the streets and coastlines of the cities across Somalia. They are widely used in urban and rural areas of the country. Single-use plastics are used in landfills, clogging drainage and sewer systems, and harming animals, and marine life. According to UNEP, over 80% of plastic waste is poorly managed in Somalia. This means that they end up in streets, oceans, or rivers, which pose growing health, hygiene, and environmental risks. Single-use plastics, climate change, Pollution and Biodiversity loss, constitute a part of the much larger planetary crisis in Somalia. Tackling a crisis correctly generates significant positive benefits for nature. Waste Management efforts might not completely curb the crisis; therefore, there is a need for a multifaceted approach to tackle the plastic crisis in terms of production, and consumption by employing different instruments.

The right to a healthy environment is guaranteed by both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Somalia’s provisional constitution, as per law. The intention behind reducing plastic use is to promote a healthy environment; however, more effective methods involve implementing both short- and long-term interventions to safeguard these rights. On February 1, 2024, Somalia called to ban all kinds of single plastic use in the country for five months as of June 2024. This comes weeks after Somalia’s president ratified the country’s first National Environmental Protection Law. Somalia’s call to ban plastic pollution is a significant step towards environmental sustainability, and several lessons can be learned from global efforts in this domain.

Historically, policy discussions have highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach that includes the entire plastic life cycle and addresses both the consumption and production of plastics. This suggests that Somalia’s policies should not only focus on waste management but also consider the production and consumption patterns of plastics. Apart from the policy framework, there is a need to combat plastics through technology, innovation in materials science, public awareness, and recycling infrastructure by the private sector, which is emphasized as a critical component of a successful national strategy to combat plastic pollution. Currently, there is not much investment in the innovation of plastic alternatives and the circular economy in Somalia. This could delay the nation’s aspirations to create a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for their people – a greener Somalia. However, the ban on single-use plastics may need to be reconsidered in terms of timing. Because plastics are pandemics, they have been used for ages. It takes ages to disappear through sufficient time so that people can adapt to the alternatives.

In light of the country’s ongoing sociopolitical and climatic crisis, it is imperative that corrective actions are taken to ensure the protection of the environment and the well-being of its citizens. To achieve this, the following steps can be taken.

1. Introduce policy incentives to encourage the reduction of single-use plastics and their production.

2. Develop comprehensive plastic waste management strategies that include both short- and long-term goals.

3. Promote the use of sustainable and indigenous knowledge practices as alternatives to plastic.

4. Invest in research, education, and awareness-raising through academic collaboration.

5. Facilitate intergovernmental collaborations with federal member states and regional organizations to address transboundary plastic pollution and share best practices in waste management.

6. Support the private sector in innovation and entrepreneurship in eco-friendly alternatives to plastics, providing support mechanisms for startups and small businesses in this sector.

7. Mobilize grassroots, community-based, and environmental conservation efforts.

Beating plastic pollution is a commendable course of action for sustainability in Somalia. There is no such small solution to this plastic crisis in Somalia. All types of innervation are inevitable and have a significant impact. I am very optimistic about single-use plastic-free consumption among the people in Somalia in the coming years. It may take time, but surely people and businesses will not ignore the perils of plastic as healthy environmental and health issues to the people and the planet.

More:Earth Day, Environment, Plastic Pollution