Why You Should Not Cook Or Eat Food Cooked In Polythene & Other Plastics

In Uganda, especially in the not so well to do communities, it is usual to see someone wrapping raw food in a polythene bag and boiling it. This is also most common in restaurants and hotels. It is also usual to see food vendors packing hot or steamy food in a polythene bag or plastic containers.

But according to scientists and environmentalists, this is a wrong practice which poses potential health risks like contracting the incurable cancer. The World Health Organization and the United Nations, backed by various scientific studies, have discouraged the use of plastics in cooking and storage of hot food and drinks.

In Uganda, many households are burning plastic bags (polyethylene) locally known as "Kaveera" to light charcoal stoves for cooking food.

“When you expose plastics to heat, they dissolve into the food you are going to eat,” Geoffrey Kamese, the Executive Director of Bio Vision Africa, said in an interview with Earthfinds. His comment comes amidst continued use of single use plastics polythene bags (kavera) in the preparation of food and drinks at home and in restaurants.

Cancerous chemicals enter your food

He explained that plastics, including the kavera, have chemicals that are dangerous and must not enter into the food we eat and the environment we live in because these chemicals can be cancerous.

“It is something of great concern that should be addressed. Plastics are found everywhere – in the atmosphere, the food we eat and the water we drink. We have an important role to play as environmentalists,” Kamese said of the need to combat the misuse of the plastics like kavera domestically and commercially.

He added that when hot food is packed in a kavera, like the rolex (chapatti and eggs) vendors do, the heat dissolves the chemicals which enter into the food. He explained that when these chemicals enter into your body, they lodge in areas of the body that are fatty like the breasts and brain.

A woman serves matooke food which she had prepared and boiled in a polythene bag (kavera).

Kamese worryingly revealed that there are over 6000 chemicals contained in the raw materials used in making plastics, however, of the 3200 chemicals of potential concern, only 4 percent (about 128 chemicals) are regulated globally. Also worth noting is that there is no data sheets on the dangers of the 6000 known chemicals.

The Bio Vision boss says that there is need for more studies to be carried out to get the right data because if not exhaustively attended to, plastics will continue to cause cancer and brain retardation, and affecting reproductive abilities in organisms including humans, affecting hormones and endocrine disorder.

Global Approach To Curb Use Of Plastics

To combat the use of plastics and plastic pollution, the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in March 2022 adopted a resolution to pave way for the establishment of a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty by 2025.

Kamese revealed that the Ugandan government, and Bio Vision Africa as a Non-Government Organization, are participating is this process. He says that the treaty is seen to provide opportunities for member states and stakeholders to eliminate and restrict plastic polymers and chemicals of concern.

We think this treaty is going to be an important tool for the global fraternity in regulating plastics use, he said, adding that there is need to find alternative disposal of plastics like recycling.  

Plastics pollution is a big global challenge affecting the environment.

He reveals that since UNEA-5, there have been processes of Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees (INCs). The first INCs meeting was held in in 2022 in Punta del Este, Uruguay. The second meeting took place in France’s capital Paris in June 2023, while the third meeting is currently happening in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. The fourth INC will be held in April, in Canada.

Kamese explained that for the Global Plastics Treaty to be effective in reversing the tide of plastics pollution, the INCs process must set precedence on mechanism and solutions geared on the stoppage of using hazardous chemicals in the plastics manufacture in order to save the human health and the environment.

It is believed that when the fifth INC sits in 2025 at a yet to be named venue, the member states will have agreed and able to sign the important agreement.

CSOs Urged To Amplify Voices Promoting Mercury Free Dentistry

By Peter Akugizibwe Araali  

The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Africa have been urged to amplify the voices that create awareness about the negative impacts of dental amalgam. This message comes at a time when Africa is commemorating the Africa Week for Mercury-Free Dentistry. The Week commenced on 13th November 2023 and ends 18th November 2023.

The Africa Week for Mercury Free Dentistry is an important tradition of the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry and African Center for Environmental Health. It was changed from “Africa Day,” to “Africa Week” to enable sufficient promotion of mercury free dentistry.

The Vice President of Network on Sound Management of Chemicals (NESMAC Kitara), Mary Atugonza, in an interview said they are using the Week as an opportunity to create public awareness using different media platforms so that communities know the dangers of dental amalgam. She added that they using the Week to give people information about dental amalgam.

She noted that many communities in Uganda and developing countries are not aware of the problems associated with the use of dental amalgam. She reveals that women and children, much as they are the most affected group, know little about the negative results of dental amalgam.

The former Woman Member of Parliament (WMP) in the 10th Parliament of Uganda, Rose Kabagyeni, says that as a country, there is need to adhere to the Minamata Convention on mercury use in dental amalgam to protect human health and the environment from adverse effects of mercury and its compounds.

She also revealed that plans are underway to sensitize communities about the dangers of dental amalgam especially in the reproductive age group. Kabagyenyi also observed that they are seeking alternatives that are affordable, effective and available to the communities.

She further noted that they are continuing to urge the 11th Parliament to legislate on possible methods how to minimize exposure and environmental protection. She said there is need to identify gaps and solutions on how these gaps can be addressed if Uganda is to meet the expectations of the Minamata Convention for sustainable economic development.

This Week’s theme is in relation to end dental Amalgam use in African as continent. The themes is “Dental amalgam use must end now for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women.” 

Charlie Brown, Attorney and President, World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry, says there is need for CSOs to use the different media platforms at local and international level to disseminate information for mercury dentistry free especially among children, pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Brown acknowledges efforts by Central African Republic and Gabon who banned the use of amalgam in October this year.

AFIEGO's Report Accuses EACOP Of Impoverishing Project Affected Persons

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project has, to a great extent, impoverished the Project Affected People (PAPs), a research report released November 7, 2023 by Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) reveals.

The NGO says the research was conducted between April and November 2023. Two hundred and thirty-seven (237) respondents from 31 villages, 16 sub-counties and six of the ten EACOP-affected districts in Uganda participated in the research.

The participants were drawn from districts of Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Mubende, Lwengo and Kyotera. They included EACOP project-affected persons, local council leaders, women, the elderly and cultural as well as opinion leaders.

The research assessed the impact that the EACOP project has had on the affected people’s access to land, the productivity of the replacement land that the affected people acquired after being displaced for the EACOP and the changes in income the affected people experienced after being displaced for the EACOP.

The research also assessed whether the EACOP had enhanced the affected people’s access to social services such as schools, health centres and cleans water among others. The EACOP-affected people’s access to employment opportunities in the oil and gas sector was also assessed among others.

The Chief Executive Officer of AFIEGO, Dickens Kamugisha, argues that the Ugandan government and other promoters of the oil and gas industry in Africa have made arguments that the industry is needed to promote socio-economic growth; however, this has not been the case. "Our research shows that instead of improving the socioeconomic conditions of the affected people, the EACOP led to a regression in the affected people’s lives.

We hope that the Ugandan government and other stakeholders will use this study, and others that highlight the impact of the oil and gas sector on the affected people, to promote better investment choices. It is best to invest in sectors that have a positive socio-economic impact on Ugandans.”

Amina Acola, a lawyer, says the study showed that the EACOP project developers have contravened various rights that the affected people should have enjoyed as guaranteed under Uganda’s Constitution. "Among others, the affected people’s property rights and their right to make a living were negatively impacted by the project. CSOs can support the affected people to seek justice through litigation among others,” Acola said.

Comfert Aganyira of AFIEGO explains that the study also demonstrated a failure by the EACOP project proponents to comply with key provisions under the International Finance Corporation (IFC) standards, especially standard 5 which provides for restoration of project-affected people to the same or a better position after their displacement. We hope that financial institutions will take note of this while deciding whether to participate in the EACOP project or not, she stated.

The following are some of the research findings as indicated in the report.

• That 96.6% of the EACOP-affected people who received cash compensation and bought replacement land between 2022 and June 2023 did not get land equivalent to that taken for the EACOP project.

• The above failure arose from the fact that the affected people received delayed, inadequate and unfair compensation. 78.1% of the respondents that participated in the study indicated that the EACOP compensation they received was delayed, unfair and inadequate. 

• In addition, the people indicated that the value of land in their local areas appreciated in value. For instance, 7% more affected persons indicated that an acre of land in their local areas cost between UGX 11 to 20 million after their displacement while 13.1% more people indicated that an acre of land cost more than UGX 21 million after their displacement. This made buying equivalent replacement land difficult.

• The research also found that the majority of the affected people’s replacement land was less productive than that that they owned before the EACOP. For instance, 41.4% indicated that their replacement land was of low productivity while 33.3% indicated that it was of medium productivity. Only 11.4% noted that their replacement land was productive while 3.3% indicated that their land is very productive. Changing seasons, contributed to by the fossil fuel industry, were also cited as a barrier to good crop productivity.

• In relation to crop productivity, the research found that the affected people experienced changes in crop harvests after their displacement for the pipeline. The most notable change was seen in the affected persons who used to harvest over 51kg of crops per year. A decline of 14.8% was see in the above persons.

• The research assessed the changes in income experienced by the affected people. The study established that there was a reduction in the PAPs’ income after their displacement. For instance, the number of affected persons earning an average annual income of over UGX 300,000 per year declined by 20.8% after the people’s displacement.

• The study also established that 49% of the EACOP-affected people that participated in the study obtained loans. When asked what the loans were acquired for, 65.8% of the respondents indicated that they wanted to feed their families, 28.7% indicated that they wanted to enhance their businesses and 5.4% indicated that they wanted to buy replacement land or complete their resettlement houses. Among others, access to food was difficult for the affected households due to land use restrictions placed on the affected people’s property due to the EACOP project.

• In relation to social services, the study found that 37% children of school-going age from the households that participated in the study were out of school. 21% of these were girls while 16% were boys. In addition, only 15% of the affected people that participated in the study had access to safe water.

• Further, none of the research’s respondents, majority of whom were of working age, were employed in the oil and gas sector.

Compensation Of EACOP PAPs To Be Completed First Quarter Of Next Year

 By George Businge

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda has 2073 Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and 98% of these have already signed compensation agreements, officials say.

The East African Crude Oil Pipeline is a Pipeline that will transport crude oil from Kabalega Industrial Park in Hoima District to Tanga Port in Tanzania; and then to the World Market.

Fred Bazara, the Community Relations Coordinator EACOP Uganda told journalists during a recent media tour of the Pipeline that before the end of this year, they will have covered at least 95% of PAPs.

According to the Community Relations Coordinator, over 170 PAPs have been built new houses while others applied for cash compensation.

He says they want to make sure that, by the end of the first quarter of the next financial year 2023/2024, they are done with the compensation and then the construction of the Pipeline begins.

Ahamad Arafat, the Construction Manager of the EACOP Project, says the Construction of Camp One in Kabaale Hoima is underway. They will proceed to other places in order to construct other camps for the workers, he said.

Stella Amony, the Public Relations Officer EACOP Uganda, says the Project has done many good things for the Project Affected Persons in the areas where it is passing.

Joseph Mukasa, the Environmental Specialist of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, reveals that they are so sensitive about wetlands and forests during the execution of their work.

The media tour of the pipeline was conducted in the districts of Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Mubende and Ssembabule.

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