‘Ban the Can’ and Save Juba from Turning into a ‘Metropollutant’ City!
PREAMBLE: During my 2010 ‘Keep Juba Clean and Glean” activism, I dedicated the whole chapter in my poetry book to the environment. One of the poems from Chapter 16 of ‘The Black Christs of Africa’ as shown in the Table of Contents below:
Nurture, Nature and the Environs
- 200- By Genetic Lottery
- 201- In Search of a Wombman?
- 202- When will our men deliver?
- 203- Our Explosive Potatoes
- 204- Citizens of Planet Hell
- 205- Of the Sahell Republic
- 206- Lake Big-Tour-Eerie!
- 207- Global Warning!
- 208- We are in the lifebrary
- 209- Earth, our Universe-city
- 210- Our Metropollutant City
And the poem chosen here that inspired the titles is posted in full, here:
Our Metropollutant City
Not yet old,
When all is not gold.
It’s citizens are littering
It with all sorts of items sold.
The fewest and newest autos
And the world’s oddest and oldest scraps
Have equal rights to the roads of our ghettos.
At times, dogs strike to liberate for themselves some gaps,
Or a mob movement takes over under impunity half of the city.
All brands of excreta block the gutters from any refuse creator.
Whatever illuminates, even fireflies, provide our electricity.
Land offer is buffet, even the dead own their homes downtown.
To describe it, I have run out of terms in any language class of noun.
Maybe in short, Juba, our city of tent,
Intended by our nation founder to be a metropolitan is now a Metropollutant.
Our city intended to be extended into a cosmopolitan is now a cosmopollutant.
AND the following piece is my latest attempt to participate in the Global Warming camp, I call it ‘Global Warning’ in the other poem.
BAN THE CAN AND SAVE JUBA FROM BECOMING A METROPOLLUTANT CITY’
This month of September (2014), the world is talking about the threat of climate change; in bigger terms, Global Warming. Therefore, this article is part of my ‘global warning’ campaign on climate change in general but environmental catastrophe in particular. It is the main agenda of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. As I am writing this environmentally friendly open petition, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan, is delivering a speech. His environment minister is doing so, too. Good news is that the President has mentioned something very touchy about our environment as a subset of climate change, as seen in this quote in his UNGA speech in New York:
“Climate change is now recognised as a huge global threat. It is the single biggest threat that can wipe out the planet Earth and the entire human race. I congratulate the UN Secretary General for convening the UN Climate Summit 2014 to focus attention on this global problem and I urge you all to heed the call of the UN Secretary General and “Take bold actions”. I am pleased that the SDGs cover environmental issues of concern to the international community. And I hope the climate summit in Paris in December 2015 will result in an agreement on a new global and a legally binding framework for tackling climate change. We must race against the clock to save our planet and the human race before it is too late. As Madam Graca Machel said, tackling climate change requires leadership, courage and ambition from all of us. Let us act in solidarity to create “The Future we want”.
As tackled in both the President and Environment Minister’s speeches in New York, we owe our environment a great deal. The citizens of South Sudan have given all their attention to the war and ethnic politics, not knowing they are throwing poisonous bombs at their backyards. We are all guilty of the war against our environment. To be regrettably specific, this writer is also guilty because he has dedicated most of his time to political and peace activism. All artists are busy on war-peace songs. The social media is happening with gossips of war, corruption, and much ado about nothing for nothing. All journalists are tuned to Addis Ababa Peace Process, war zones, government workshops and foreign travels, and so on for news, but their immediate surrounding is stinking with garbage and teeming with all sorts of vectors and germs. This is going to be regrettable in the long run!
The peoples’ representatives in the national and state assemblies are busy on drafting laws and passing bills into laws to protect, for example, the rights of their citizens. Laws to protect the journalists, laws to project the nation – if not the government – (National Security Bills), laws to promote investments, and so forth, but have forgotten to legislate laws to protect themselves. Which laws are these? They there are very important laws but not publically emphasized to the citizens of South Sudan; the environmental protection laws. We are our environment, and if the environment is not protected, we are done!
Much as it is the work of the government to put laws in place and implement them, the whole burden of executing the rules as well as suffering the consequences lies upon the public of the Republic of South Sudan. Blaming as such is not the solution. The solution lies in the hands of the people and their government. But the final baton stops at the companies, especially the manufacturers of the environmentally damaging products. Though the main economic activity for companies is importing, rather than manufacturing, today, alarm bells for environmental safety must sound as early as now for tomorrow. That is why this ‘Ban-the-Can’ campaign is initiated.
To begin with, it is not bad to build our nation economically, but this must come with responsibilities. We should promote economic prosperity, alright, but not at the expense of our posterity; the upcoming generation. During the subsequent wars, South Sudan has thrown uncountable bombs and planted too many landmines lying out there in terms of UXOs (Unexploded Ordnances). Many organizations are spending millions in clearing landmines and UXOs to save our environment and the next generation.
Unfortunately, we are throwing more dangerous bombs than the ones already thrown. These are sorts of non-disposable containers such as beer cans, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and the like. They have invaded Juba as seen everywhere around the city. Hence, the coining of the term ‘Metropollutant’ as in the title of this ‘Ban-the-Can’ article. Juba, in the onset of peace from 2005 to date, has been miraculously burgeoning with all sorts of nationalities and economic activities, including manufacturing and construction. All these give the city the character of a metropolis. But, wait a minute, is this Juba’s metropolitan status environmentally clean and socially dignified?
Sadly enough, the good things we seem to be doing for our common good are now turning into our own enemies. That is why Juba, our promising metropolitan city, is turning into a ‘metropollutant’ city due to all sorts of unattended pollutants at its environs. Prominent examples include water pollution, air pollution, land pollution, noise pollution, and other specific impurities such as pollution of food and medicines: either expired or fake. All these are a time bomb, a major threat, to the future of this country, as well of the world. Who is to blame? All of us, of course.
Just as it was appropriate to point the finger of blame to the policy makers of this country, another finger goes to the developers. This includes companies which produce or import environmentally harmful materials. However, our home companies are to blame a bit less in this case. And, yes, the biggest beverage manufacturing plant in South Sudan deserves credit, according to this opinion. This is South Sudan Breweries Limited (SSBL). It is not that SSBL is not producing some of the materials mentioned above, but most of their products fit the environmental safety norms of the three ‘R’s, namely: Reuse, Reduce or Recycle. The bottles, both glass and plastic, they are producing are reusable or recyclable. They have not been seen to be producing cans. Or have they? That may not be necessarily the fact that the given company conforms to the laws of this country as the laws in question, if any, are not stringent yet. The fact is that I use SSBL as my case study in this ‘Ban-the-Can’ campaign because it is a child of an internationally renowned parent company in the name of SAB Miller, headquartered in South Africa. This is probably the second largest brewery company, next to Heineken, in the world. But that is not important to this writer and the nation. What is important is if they are leading by example, they must be emulated, and not humiliated, in our world’s youngest country. In short, SSBL is hereby advised environmentally to be a big brother to the rest of upcoming companies.
This brings me to the most important concern of South Sudan being made a dumping ground by other big bully economies. Our being delicately young and openly welcoming are being abused. For instance, recently, the government (Ministry of Labour) was in hot water diplomatically due to the sudden order it made on the dominance of foreign work force in the market of South Sudan. Well, it was a good idea but in a wrong time and with a wrong approach. That being the case, more concerns should have been raised in the consumption market than in the job market. South Sudanese seem to be poisoned in many ways – but most threateningly – environmentally! Many environment-friendly stuffs are produced for local consumptions in our neighbouring countries like Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, but not meant for export to South Sudan.
To be more specific, let me point out the threat of ‘can containers’. Many beverages in the said countries, which are exported to South Sudan, are not stored in glass or plastic bottles but in cans. Cans are not disposable; say, not reducible, reusable or recyclable. Juba is full of them! Hectares and mountains of cans are part of the land grabbers of precious prime estates around the city and in many of our states capitals. This is eating up our little space that could be spared for future works and habitation. Not only that but cans garbage are physically harmful, besides taking up space for development in towns. Where do they come from? What do they contain? Who consumes from their contents and throw them around? How do we control them? We all know, but tend to ignore it.
In addition to these things that I call ‘Can Bombs’, our environment is thrown and strewn with all kinds of harmful objects. The wars, previous and current, have brought all sorts of bombs. Around Jonglei State, to say the least, the United Nations complained of the use of cluster bomb in December (2013) and January (2014) by the warring parties. Landmines are still being planted in Unity and Upper Nile State despite the fact that they have been internationally banned. The effect of this is initially on our habitats and eventually on us, the inhabitants. For instance, one of the academic researchers wrote in his thesis statement in July this year that many trees have not blossomed during the last spring season because of the effect of war around Bor town. If the impact could be seen with naked eyes from the trees as such, just imagine the unseen damage: the land, the water, the soil and the air polluted by such war chemicals. All these can as well be dangerous, but the longer term pollution goes back to the canning container garbage, which we throw recklessly after draining up the contents. Landmines and UXOs can be cleared, but who is ready to clear kilometers of garbage on Yei Road in Juba, for example?
To conclude, we must include again the introduction to this article: the laws to regulate the manufacturing or importing of environmentally unfriendly materials like the ‘beer cans’ mentioned earlier on. As if that is not enough, even if laws are put in place, it takes the whole citizenry to accept and apply them in their daily activities for their welfare. I can conclude without applauding a few initiatives on the environmental protection. For instance, I was moved when the Minister for Environment launched a very unique branch, the Ozone Department, in the ministry on the World Environmental Day this month of September, 2014. This department, in partnership with other relevant government organs such as the Bureau of Standards and Chamber of Commerce and Industry, could team up with companies like SSBL to implement environment safety campaigns, much bigger than this small ‘Ban-the-Can’ busybody, whistle-blowing concern.
For that matter, using the publicity groups of citizens mentioned above as shown exemplarily by the group that generated this advocacy articles (in stories and pictures); especially the artists and media groups, sensitization could be done to back up the laws such as the one banning the import of all sorts of soda and beer cans. The Ministry of Environment could spearhead this campaign by proposing the more stringent and more specific environment protection bill to the parliament, which in turn will enact it into laws, to be implemented by law-enforcement agents and the concerned companies. It is not that one is against the business of the suppliers or manufacturers of certain goods, but the supplies of canned drinks to South Sudan should be stopped and the clean-up stepped up with immediate effect.
Of course, this article would not come to an end without a word of wisdom from elsewhere. It is Jesus Christ who said, “What does it benefit a man to gain the world and lose his life? Similarly, what does it benefit South Sudan, as a nation, to gain all the wealth and lose all her health—environmentally?
OTHER PICTURES OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGN IN JUBA