NEMA suspends enforcement of dustbins in cars after public uproar

The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has suspended the enforcement that requires all vehicles to have dustbins for all public transporters for at least one month, this website has learnt.

KAMPALA, UGANDA: The National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has suspended the enforcement that requires all vehicles to have dustbins for all public transporters for at least one month, this website has learnt.

The announcement came Friday, March 31st, just hours to the commencement of the enforcement exercise that was supposed to begin on Saturday, April 1, 2023.

The NEMA Executive Director Dr Akankwasa Barirega in a Friday statement said the enforcement had been halted for at least 30 days after an engagement with the public transporters federation.

“The public transporters requested for additional time to install trash bins or bags in their vehicles. We have accordingly given them a grace period of 30 days to enable them to install trash bins or bags to prevent littering from the public transport vehicles,” Barirega said in a statement on Friday.

“The enforcement teams are hereby notified that nobody should be arrested or fined for not having a trash bin or bag in their vehicle during this grace period starting April 1, 2023.”

The grace period is applicable for both private and public vehicles but according to the NEMA Executive Director, any vehicle seen littering or throwing trash will be impounded, the owner arrested and then prosecuted.

Dr Barirega however clarified that despite the suspension of the exercise for the dustbins, the enforcement of all the other offences begins today, April,1.

“Note that the administrative fines are voluntary and a person who doesn’t prefer the fine will be subjected to prosecution and imprisonment of a fine as determined by court,” he said.

The Environment Authority had announced on March 16th that it was to start carrying out traffic stops and penalizing drivers of both private and public transport vehicles who would be found without trashcans in their vehicles.

Among the new regulations, every car is supposed to have a dustbin and any vehicle found without one will see the driver arrested or fined shs6 million.

The announcement was met with mixed views from the public, with some accusing the body of overstepping its mandate.

The NEMA Executive Director said they are going to work with traffic police to implement this specific regulation.

However, this requirement for vehicles to have dustbins or pay a shs6 million fine has caused a public uproar, especially on social media.

Many have said it is illogical for NEMA to start enforcing installing of dustbins in vehicles.

The Uganda Law Society earlier last month wrote to NEMA challenging them on the requirement for all vehicles to have dustbins.

The lawyers’ body argued that the offence that is being introduced is not prescribed by the Ugandan law, adding that the National Environment Management Act, 2019 does not provide for the offence of driving a car without a dustbin.

“Our request to you was for the law that prescribes the offence of motorists not carrying a dustbin in their vehicles. We pointed out that the Constitution requires that every offence be defined and penalty provided by law. Your claim that carrying a dustbin is in fulfilment of a motorist’s responsibility for waste generated in a vehicle does not address the issue,” Uganda Law Society president Bernard Oundo said in a letter to NEMA.

However, Tony Achidria, the NEMA spokesperson clarified that NEMA never intended to enforce the dustbin requirement as a criminal offence as ULS and other Ugandans thought, but was brought was a suggestion.

“The issue of not having a dustbin is not an offence in itself, the offence is littering,” he said, adding that; “We brought this up along with other guidelines on noise pollution, backfilling of wetlands and others, but this one seems to have come out most.

“But it was brought as a proposal for public means. What we are saying is that in order to prevent that (littering) behaviour, we are encouraging the drivers to have where passengers can put their rubbish.”

Mr Ochidria said they will be making these clarifications to ULS and the public soon.

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