Adopt ‘Carrot & Stick’ Approach

The current cat and mouse game being played by dealers in outlawed plastic bags and the country’s authorities is disturbing looking at the devastating effects of the products to man and his environment. In effect, recurrent confiscation of the illegal plastic bags at some entry points of the country by Customs officials is indicative of an old habit which is proving difficult to die. For, it’s almost eight years that government prohibited their use in the country.
Inasmuch as an international non-governmental organisation like Greenpeace praises Cameroon’s Customs administration for seizing the illicit plastics, the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development that championed the banning order must have by now understood that the practice needs more than just talking to cease to exist. Cameroon, like most African countries, has porous borders and Customs officials cannot be everywhere to track down money-hungry people spearheading the forbidden practice. 
Just from observation, markets are still full with the proscribed product either from unscrupulous business people who tricked the vigilance of control agents, used some of the numerous creeks to get into the country or even from local manufacturers. Actions carried out thus far are therefore proving largely insufficient to curtail the business activity which is seemingly yielding good fruits for the dealers. Basic economic knowledge teaches that supply comes to meet demand. Playing all gymnastics to supply the local market with a banned product expressly speaks of the growing demand for the barred plastic bags. 
So many questions then come begging for answers. Is the market well served with the much-trumpeted alternatives to the banned plastic bags? Has there been any respite in government’s control measures? What became of the initially announced sanctions against defaulters? Whatever the attempted answers; justifiable or not, the bottom line is that the problems which the plastic papers posed to man and his environment and which pushed government to opt for a complete ban still stare the country in the face. They even risk exacerbating judging from the surge in the import, use and evidently littering of the environment. 
A change of approach is imperative here. Sanctions should follow sensitisation if authorities are convinced that the public has been sufficiently schooled on what they are supposed to know and do to keep the non-biodegradable plastic bags off the public space. Telling the world that this or that Customs sector seized this or that quantity of the plastics is just good for the image of the administration which would be perceived as working well. Dishing out severe sanctions and indiscriminately too on those who flout the salutary government’s move could deter others from venturing. A ‘Carrot and Stick’ strategy is more than ever vital. 



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